DOI:https://doi.org/10.3232/SJSS.2016.V6.N2.05

Evaluation of plant waste used as mulch on soil moisture retention

Jose Ramón Rico Hernández, José Navarro Pedreño, Ignacio Gómez Lucas

Abstract

Soil mulching is a technique commonly used in arid and semi-arid areas to prevent erosion and reduce evaporation of soil water. In this study, an experiment quantified the effect of three organic wastes (shredded date palm leaf (Phoenix dactylifera), cereal straw, and pine bark) used as mulch on moisture retention in two soils with different textures, S1 (loam) and S2 (silty loam). Each soil was added to a height of 15 cm in square containers 31 cm wide and 20 cm high. The treatments were administered a day after soil saturation with water by covering each soil with 2 cm of mulch. Soils without mulching were used as control treatments. The experiment took place inside a greenhouse until a total loss of soil moisture was achieved. Temperature (T) and relative humidity (RH) values were measured throughout the experiment. During the first 16 days, high and practically constant evaporation was observed in the soils without mulching (1813 g H2O/day per m2 in S1 and 1792 g H2O/day per m2 in S2). Linear regressions were established to quantify the water loss over time in each treatment. The results show that all three organic byproducts were effective in reducing water loss in both soils, with significant differences observed between pine bark and the other two materials. The palm leaf was as effective as the cereal straw, so it is considered appropriate for use as a mulching material in areas like ours where its abundance and ease of use provide further environmental benefits.

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