In recent years, large areas of farmland in the North China Plain have been converted into short-rotation poplar plantations. To analyze the impacts of poplar plantations on soil, 22 soil samples were collected and assayed from the soil profiles of a corn field and a poplar plantation. The results showed that the average soil moisture content of the soil profile in the poplar field was 2.6 percent lower than that of the arable land. The maximum difference in soil moisture content was found in the upper 0–10 cm of topsoil. Soil organic matter and nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the cornfield were significantly higher than in the poplar field. Higher nutrient content in the corn field may result from higher fertilizer inputs and the practice of returning straw to the cropped field. The analysis also showed no significant increase in soil organic matter content in deeper soil layers of the poplar field, which means that the conditions are not favorable for the formation of soil organic matter, or that soil organic matter needs a longer time to develop. Elements such as magnesium, iron, manganese and copper in both the corn field and the poplar field had a tendency to accumulate with increasing soil depth. Magnesium, iron, manganese and copper in the 0–80 cm soil layer of the poplar field were higher than those of the cornfield, but the situation was reversed at depths greater than 80 cm. It is concluded that poplar trees consume a large amount of soil moisture and soil nutrients. Local governments should prevent the development of new plantations of fast-growing trees in farmland and help farmers to recover their farmland from forestry plantations.
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