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Assessment of climate change impacts on soil organic carbon and crop yield based on long-term fertilization applications in Loess Plateau, China

Chen, Haixin, Zhao, Ying, Feng, Hao, Li, Huijie, Sun, Benhua
Plant and soil 2015 v.390 no.1-2 pp. 401-417
General Circulation Models, Triticum aestivum, Zea mays, agroecosystems, carbon, carbon sequestration, climate, climate change, corn, crop yield, field experimentation, food security, mineral fertilizers, organic fertilizers, soil, soil organic carbon, summer, temperature, winter wheat, China
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Climate change may significantly impact crop yields and soil. In this study the DNDC model, together with climatic outputs from Hadley Centre’s general circulation model (HadCM3), was used to investigate the influence of projected climate change and management practices on soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics and crop yield of the Chinese Loess Plateau. The results identify management practices with the greatest potential to mitigate climate change and to increase SOC in this area. METHODS: Field experiments on winter-wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and summer maize (Zea mays L.) rotation included a control and four types of fertilization treatments: T1 (control), T2 (inorganic fertilizer), T3 (NPK inorganic fertilization combined with wheat or maize residue return), T4 (NPK inorganic fertilization combined with low amount of manure) and T5 (NPK inorganic fertilization combined with high amount of manure). DNDC model was calibrated using the field data from 1991 to 2000 and validated from 2001 to 2010. Furthermore, a baseline climate and three future climate scenarios (A1B, A2 and B1) were considered. RESULTS: DNDC model effectively simulated the SOC and crop yields. The findings showed that in 1991–2010, T1 maintained its initial SOC level but reduced crop yields, while T2 promoted crop production with less effect on soil carbon storage. However, T3, T4 and T5 enhanced both crop yield and soil carbon, and the best results were observed under T5. The investigated climate scenarios substantially affect SOC content and crop yields. In terms of SOC content, B1 had great effects on T1, T4 and T5, while A1B on T2 and T3. Considering crop yields, in all treatments, the trends are B1 > A1B > A2 for winter-wheat and A2 > A1B > B1 for summer maize, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: The impacts of climate changes on SOC dynamics and crop yields were different depending on the management applied. Thus, the adoption of certain management practices in the Chinese Loess Plateau agroecosystems could be critical in maximizing SOC sequestration and reducing CO₂in the atmosphere. Reasonably low temperature and high precipitation can enhance winter-wheat yields, while maize yields need medium temperature and precipitation. We recommended the combined application of inorganic and organic fertilizers to achieve a balance between food security and soil carbon sequestration objectives.