How Soil Moisture and Organic Carbon Affect Apple Orchards on the Loess Plateau

Jim Crocker
30th May, 2024

How Soil Moisture and Organic Carbon Affect Apple Orchards on the Loess Plateau

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study on apple orchards in the Loess Plateau, China, found that soil moisture content (SMC) decreases significantly with orchard age, especially at depths of 100-500 cm
  • Soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration increases with orchard age, peaking at 12 years, and occurs significantly in deeper soil layers
  • Soil moisture in deeper layers negatively correlates with SOC, and root dry weight density influences both SMC and SOC, highlighting the need for effective soil management practices
A recent study conducted by Yan'an University[1] has shed light on the dynamic changes in soil moisture content (SMC) and soil organic carbon (SOC) in apple orchards (AOs) of various ages on the Loess Plateau in China. This research is crucial as the region has been extensively planting AOs to boost the local economy and increase farmers' income. However, sustainable development and consistent yield production in these orchards are hindered by two primary factors: SMC and SOC. Understanding the contributions of roots to these changes and the temporal modes of the SMC-SOC coupled effects is essential for developing effective management strategies. The study found that as AOs age, there is a continuous decline in SMC throughout the 0-500 cm soil profile, with significant depletion occurring at depths of 100-500 cm. The most substantial depletion rates were observed in AOs aged 20 years (30.02% per year) and 30 years (31.18% per year). This finding aligns with earlier research indicating that deep-rooted plants, such as apple trees, access deep soil water reserves, which leads to soil desiccation over time[2]. Additionally, this study found that soil moisture was the most important driver of ecosystem carbon fluxes, positively correlating with them[3]. In terms of SOC, the study revealed that all AOs, except for the 6-year-old ones, exhibited a carbon sequestration effect, which increased with age. The highest carbon sequestration rate was noted in 12-year-old AOs, after which it decreased with age. Notably, both surface and deeper soils showed improved carbon sequestration, with a significant amount of SOC being sequestered in deeper soil layers (>100 cm). This finding is consistent with earlier studies that highlighted the potential of deep soil layers in regulating water and carbon cycles[2]. The study also explored the coupled effects of SMC and SOC, which varied with age and depth. It was found that SMC in deeper layers was significantly negatively correlated with SOC. Moreover, root dry weight density (RDWD) was significantly negatively correlated with SMC and positively correlated with SOC. Path analysis suggested that SMC directly affects SOC at different soil depths and regulates SOC by influencing RDWD. These effects were significantly different at various depths, highlighting the complex interplay between soil moisture, root biomass, and carbon sequestration. This research underscores the importance of managing SMC and SOC in AOs to ensure sustainable water use and stable agricultural carbon sequestration on the Loess Plateau. The findings suggest that management practices should focus on addressing the moisture deficit and enhancing the carbon sequestration capabilities of deeper soils. Strategies such as improved irrigation, water conservation, and the adoption of cover crops could be beneficial[4]. In conclusion, this study from Yan'an University provides valuable insights into the dynamic changes in SMC and SOC in AOs, emphasizing the need for effective management practices to promote sustainable development in the region. By understanding the coupled effects of SMC and SOC and the role of roots in these processes, farmers and policymakers can develop strategies to enhance the productivity and sustainability of apple orchards on the Loess Plateau.

AgricultureEnvironmentPlant Science


Main Study

1) Soil moisture and soil organic carbon coupled effects in apple orchards on the Loess Plateau, China.

Published 29th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) Deep soil water extraction by apple sequesters organic carbon via root biomass rather than altering soil organic carbon content.

3) Predominant role of soil moisture in regulating the response of ecosystem carbon fluxes to global change factors in a semi-arid grassland on the Loess Plateau.

4) Soil carbon sequestration impacts on global climate change and food security.

Journal: Science (New York, N.Y.), Issue: Vol 304, Issue 5677, Jun 2004

Related Articles

An unhandled error has occurred. Reload 🗙