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Artificial warming-mediated soil freezing and thawing processes can regulate soybean production in Northeast China

Fu, Wei, Zhang, Xingyi, Zhao, Jun, Du, Shuli, Horton, Robert, Hou, Meiting
Agricultural and forest meteorology 2018 v.262 pp. 249-257
agricultural land, agricultural soils, cotyledons, crop yield, dry matter accumulation, freeze-thaw cycles, freezing, frost, global warming, hydrologic cycle, plant available water, soil temperature, sowing date, soybeans, surface water, thawing, vegetative growth, China
Northeast China with seasonally frozen soil is quite sensitive to global warming. The changes in soil freezing and thawing processes initiated by global warming could alter the hydrological cycle of agricultural fields. A paired-plot experiment was conducted in frozen agricultural soils in Northeast China to examine the impacts of simulated warming on soil freezing and thawing processes and on soybean production. Infrared radiators were used to simulate global warming, rising surface soil temperature (5 cm depth) by 2.86 °C. We showed that, artificial warming caused the freeze duration shortened by 22 days, and the thaw duration shortened by 17 days resulting in the mean duration of soil freezing-thawing significantly shortened by 39 days and the maximum frost depth reduced by about 40 cm. Simulated warming had no significant effect on the average annual freeze-thaw cycle frequency. Warming induced a larger water accumulation in the 0–100 cm soil layer during 2014–2015 soil freezing period. In the dry year of 2015, warming did not significantly affect surface soil moisture during period from sowing date to VC (soybean cotyledon) date. Thus, warming-induced an increase in soybean yield in the dry year may be attributable to the positive effect of enhanced soil temperature on soybean growth (aboveground dry matter accumulation) and consequent on soybean production. In the wet year of 2014, warming decreased surface soil moisture from sowing date to the date of VC stage because warming advanced the soil thaw-end date in 20–60 cm layer by 15 days. This decline in surface soil water availability may potentially offset the positive effects of increased soil temperature on soybean yield, thus warming effects on soybean production was neutral in the wet year. Our findings highlight the potential role of seasonally soil freezing and thawing dynamics in regulating soybean to global warming and suggested that warming effects on soil water dynamics during soil freezing and thawing periods, and subsequent on the surface soil water availability at the early vegetative stage and soybean production were associated with the hydrological year. We conclude that under current precipitation patterns, the no response of soil surface water availability to warming during early vegetative growth, coupled with warming-mediated increases in soil temperature, might improve soybean production during dry years in Northeast China.