Plant and Soil

, Volume 390, Issue 1–2, pp 401–417 | Cite as

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

  • Haixin Chen
  • Ying ZhaoEmail author
  • Hao FengEmail author
  • Huijie Li
  • Benhua Sun
Regular Article


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.


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.


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.


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 CO2 in 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.


Climate change Crop yields DNDC model Fertilization Soil organic carbon 



The authors are indebted to “Chinese National Loess Fertility and Fertilizer Effects Long-term Monitoring Base” for providing the experimental data useful to the model validation. This work was jointly supported by the National 863 Research Program (2011BAD29B09), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41001130), the NWAFU Research Project (2013RWYB20), and the 111 Project (B12007). Thanks to all software developers, especially to Prof. Changsheng Li for the DNDC support and suggestion. We are very appreciated with the pertinent comments provided by Dr. Martin. Parkes, the two anonymous reviewers and editors which greatly improved the manuscript.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess PlateauNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Plant Nutrition and the Agri-environment in Northwest China, Ministry of AgricultureNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingChina
  3. 3.National Engineering Research Center for Water Saving Irrigation at YanglingYanglingChina

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