The role of soil organic matter in maintaining the productivity and yield stability of cereals in China

Genxing Pan, Pete Smith, Weinan Pan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

347 Citations (Scopus)


The role of soil organic matter (SOM) in agricultural systems has been widely studied in conjunction with the potential for greenhouse gas mitigation. However, the link between SOM accumulation in croplands, crop productivity and yield stability has not yet been clearly established. In this paper, we collected data on provincial yearly crop productivity (yields, total cropland area) during 1949-1998 and the average SOM contents in croplands sampled and determined from the National Soil Survey in 1979-1982 of mainland China. The cereal productivity was assessed both with an overall mean of 1949-1998 and with the mean values for different time periods within this overall time, respectively. The yield variability within a single stabilizing stage, and between the fluctuating years, was calculated as a negative measure of yield stability. The correlation between SOM and cereal productivity was very significant for most provinces, but the relationship has become less significant as we approach the present. Moreover, the average yield variability was very significantly and negatively correlated with the cropland SOM level. The findings support our previous hypothesis from case studies, that C sequestration in China's croplands may provide win-win benefits, by enhancing crop productivity and stabilizing yield. This offers a sound basis as a greenhouse gas mitigation strategy by promoting C sequestration in croplands, and enhancing food security in China's agriculture. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-348
Number of pages5
JournalAgriculture Ecosystems & Environment
Issue number1-3
Early online date18 Nov 2008
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009


  • C sequestration
  • cereal production
  • cropland productivity
  • food security of China
  • soil organic matter
  • carbon sequestration
  • fertility
  • systems


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