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Assessing Soil Quality for Sustainable Cropland Management Based on Factor Analysis and Fuzzy Sets: A Case Study in the Lhasa River Valley, Tibetan Plateau

Fuqiang Dai (), Zhiqiang Lv () and Gangcai Liu ()
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Fuqiang Dai: College of Tourism and Land Resources, Chongqing Technology and Business University, No. 19, Xuefu Road, Chongqing 400067, China
Zhiqiang Lv: College of Tourism and Land Resources, Chongqing Technology and Business University, No. 19, Xuefu Road, Chongqing 400067, China
Gangcai Liu: Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Ministry of Water Resources, # 9, Block 4, Renminnanlu Road, Chengdu 610041, China

Sustainability, 2018, vol. 10, issue 10, 1-17

Abstract: Ecologically fragile cropland soils and intensive agricultural production are characteristic of the valley area of the Tibetan Plateau. A systematic assessment of soil quality is necessary and important for improving sustainable cropland management in this area. This study aims to establish a minimum data set (MDS) for soil quality assessment and generate an integrated soil quality index for sustainable cropland management in the Tibetan Plateau. Soil samples were collected from the 0–20 cm depths of agricultural land in the middle and lower reaches of the Lhasa River. These samples were analyzed by routine laboratory methods. Significant differences were identified via statistical test between different soil types and land use types for each soil property. Principal component analysis was used to define a MDS of indicators that determine soil quality. Consequently, effective porosity, pH, total organic C, total N, available P, and catalase were identified as the final MDS. The soil quality index was obtained by the fuzzy-set membership function and the linear weighted additive method. The soil quality index differed significantly between the soil types and land use types. The soil quality can be ranked based on their indices in the following order: 1. Grain land with meadow soils, 2. Grain land with steppe soils, 3. Greenhouse vegetable land with fluvo-aquic soils, 4. Grain land with fluvo-aquic soils. The soils with higher soil quality indices exhibited better soil structure, higher nutrient contents, and superior resistance to water and nutrient loss. While the intensive tillage practices associated with vegetable production could reduce the values for effective porosity, pH and catalase, the application of appropriate fertilizers increased the values for total organic C, total N and available P. Therefore, the MDS method is an effective and useful tool to identify the key soil properties for assessing soil quality, and provides guidance on adaptive cropland management to a variety of soil types and land use types.

Keywords: soil quality index; minimum data set; agricultural land use; soil types; Tibetan Plateau (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 O13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:10:p:3477-:d:172649