Reducing plastic film mulching and optimizing agronomic management can ensure food security and reduce carbon emissions in irrigated maize areas

In this study, a field experiment was conducted during 2017–2020 in 3 farmland areas, each with different altitudes and climate conditions, in northern Xinjiang, China, to analyse the plastic residue pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The effects of plastic film mulching (PFM) versus no mulching (NM) methods in drip-irrigated maize production were investigated, regarding maize yield, economic returns, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Different maize hybrids with three different maturation times and two planting densities were chosen to further investigate how those differences more specifically affect maize yield, economic returns, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under each mulching method. By matching the required accumulated temperatures of various maize varieties to environmental accumulated temperatures, along with filmless and higher density planting and modern irrigation and fertilisation practices, yields increased, and at the same time, residual plastic film pollution and carbon emissions were found to decrease. The study highlights that advancements in agronomic management are an important step towards reducing pollution and achieving carbon peak and carbon neutrality goals.

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