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Concept: Loess


The successful establishment of agricultural crops depends on sowing quality, machinery performance, soil type and conditions, among other factors. This study evaluates the operational quality of mechanized peanut sowing in three soil types (sand, silt, and clay) with variable moisture contents. The experiment was conducted in three locations in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. The track-sampling scheme was used for 80 sampling locations of each soil type. Descriptive statistics and statistical process control (SPC) were used to evaluate the quality indicators of mechanized peanut sowing. The variables had normal distributions and were stable from the viewpoint of SPC. The best performance for peanut sowing density, normal spacing, and the initial seedling growing stand was found for clayey soil followed by sandy soil and then silty soil. Sandy or clayey soils displayed similar results regarding sowing depth, which was deeper than in the silty soil. Overall, the texture and the moisture of clayey soil provided the best operational performance for mechanized peanut sowing.

Concepts: Soil, Erosion, Silt, Sand, Clay, Loess, Statistical process control, W. Edwards Deming


This study examined a pair of neighbouring small watersheds with contrasting vegetations: artificial forestland and natural grassland. Since 1954, afforestation which mainly planted with black locust has been conducted in one of these watersheds and natural revegetation in the other. The differences in soil total N, nitrate, ammonium, foliar litterfall δ(15)N and dual stable isotopes of δ(15)N and δ(18)O in soil nitrate were investigated in the two ecosystems. Results showed that there was no significant difference in soil total N storage between the two ecosystems, but the black locust forestland presented higher soil nitrate than the grassland. Moreover, the foliar litterfall N content and δ(15)N of the forestland were significant higher than the grassland. These results indicate that 60 years of watershed black locust afforestation have increased soil N availability. The higher nitrate in the forestland was attributed to the biological N fixation of black locust and difference in ecosystem hydrology. The dual stable isotopes of δ(15)N and δ(18)O revealed that the two ecosystems had different sources of soil nitrate. The soil nitrate in the forestland was likely derived from soil N nitrification, while the soil nitrate in the grassland was probably derived from the legacy of NO3(-) fertiliser.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Ammonia, Soil, Nitrogen, Ecosystem, Erosion, Loess, Deforestation


Denitrifying bioreactors are increasingly being used for nitrate removal from agricultural drainage water. Filled with carbon substrates, often woodchips, denitrifying bioreactors provide a favorable anaerobic environment for denitrification. Despite performing well in loess soils in the Midwestern United States, field bioreactors have not yet been evaluated in shallow soils over glacial till that are characteristic for the Northeastern United States. This study, therefore, investigates the performance of bioreactors and provides design criteria for shallow soil with flashy discharges. Paired bioreactors, one filled with woodchips and one with a mixture of woodchip and biochar, were installed in tile drained fields in three landscapes in New York State. The bioreactors were monitored for a three-year period during which, the flow rate, temperature, nitrate (NO3(-)-N), sulfate (SO4(2-)-S) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) were measured. Results showed that the average NO3(-)-N removal efficiency during the three years of observations was about 50%. The NO3(-)-N removal rate ranged from 0 in winter to 72 g d(-1) m(-3) in summer. We found that biochar was only effective during the first year in enhancing denitrification, due to the ageing. An index for carbon availability related to NO3(-)-N removal was developed. During winter, availability of the DOC was a limiting factor in bioreactor performance. Finally, to aid in the design of bioreactors, we developed generalizable relationships between the removal efficiency and hydraulic retention time and temperature.

Concepts: United States, Soil, Water quality indicators, Drainage, Midwestern United States, New York, Loess, Northeastern United States


The loess stratigraphic boundary at the Pleistocene/Holocene transition defined by the magnetic susceptibility (MS) has previously been assumed to be synchronous with the Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 2/1 boundary, and approximately time-synchronous at different sections across the Chinese Loess Plateau (CLP). However, although this assumption has been used as a basis for proxy-age model of Chinese loess deposits, it has rarely been tested by using absolute dating methods. In this study, we applied a single-aliquot regenerative-dose (SAR) protocol to the 45-63 μm quartz grain-size fraction to derive luminescence ages for the last glacial and Holocene sections of three loess sections on a transect from southeast to northwest across the CLP. Based on the 33 closely spaced optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) samples from the three sections, OSL chronologies were established using a polynomial curve fit at each section. Based on the OSL chronology, the timing of the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary, as defined by rapid changes in MS values, is dated at ~10.5 ka, 8.5 ka and 7.5 ka in the Yaoxian section, Jingchuan and Huanxian sections respectively. These results are clearly inconsistent with the MIS 2/1 boundary age of 12.05 ka, and therefore we conclude that the automatic correlation of the Pleistocene/Holocene transition, as inferred from the MS record, with the MIS 2/1 boundary is incorrect. The results clearly demonstrate that the marked changes in MS along the southeast to northwest transect are time-transgressive among the different sites, with the timing of significant paleosol development as indicated by the MS record being delayed by 3-4 ka in the northwest compared to the southeast. Our results suggest that this asynchronous paleosol development during the last deglacial was caused by the delayed arrival of the summer monsoon in the northwest CLP compared to the southeast.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Erosion, Magnetic susceptibility, Yellow River, Section, Loess, Loess Plateau, Absolute dating


Mulching is critical for increasing water availability and hence winter wheat production in dryland farming systems. A two-year study was conducted to assess the effects of mulches on soil water storage (SWS), temperature, water use efficiency (WUE) and yields of winter wheat on the Loess Plateau. Four treatments were examined: conventional flat planting (CK), straw mulch (FPS), transparent plastic film mulch (FPP) and ridge-furrow with plastic film-mulched ridge and straw-mulched furrow (RFPS). Compared with CK, RFPS greatly increased SWS from 0-60 cm, FPP increased SWS from 0-40 cm, and FPS slightly increased SWS from 0-60 cm; however, FPP significantly (P < 0.05) decreased SWS from 61-100 cm. RFPS and FPP increased soil temperatures in cold seasons relative to CK, especially in RFPS (2.0-2.3 °C). Meanwhile, the rate of soil temperature increase was greater in RFPS and FPP than in CK but was lower in FPS. Mean yields were significantly increased in RFPS (56.78%), FPP (44.72%) and FPS (9.57%), and WUE was significantly increased in RFPS (44.04%) and in FPP (37.50%) compared with CK (P < 0.05). We conclude that ridge-furrow planting with plastic film-mulched ridge and straw-mulched furrow has a good potential for raising winter wheat production on the Loess Plateau.

Concepts: Water, Temperature, Wheat, Erosion, Loess, Winter wheat, Mulch, Dryland farming


The loess-paleosol sequence on the Loess Plateau has been considered an important paleoclimatic archive to study global climatic and environmental changes in the Quaternary. So far, little attention has been paid to the characteristics of soil organic carbon fractions in loess-paleosol sequences, which may provide valuable information for exploring the evolution of climate and environment in the Quaternary on the Loess Plateau.

Concepts: Earth, Climate, Soil, Climate change, Erosion, Humus, Loess, Paleoclimatology


The spatial heterogeneity of soil respiration and its temperature sensitivity pose a great challenge to accurately estimate the carbon flux in global carbon cycling, which has primarily been researched in flatlands versus hillslope ecosystems. On an eroded slope (35°) of the semiarid Loess Plateau, soil respiration, soil moisture and soil temperature were measured in situ at upper and lower slope positions in triplicate from 2014 until 2016, and the soil biochemical and microbial properties were determined. The results showed that soil respiration was significantly greater (by 44.2%) at the lower slope position (2.6 μmol m-2 s-1) than at the upper slope position, as were soil moisture, carbon, nitrogen fractions and root biomass. However, the temperature sensitivity was 13.2% greater at the upper slope position than at the lower slope position (P < 0.05). The soil fungal community changed from being Basidiomycota-dominant at the upper slope position to being Zygomycota-dominant at the lower slope position, corresponding with increased β-D-glucosidase activity at the upper slope position than at the lower slope position. We concluded that soil respiration was enhanced by the greater soil moisture, root biomass, carbon and nitrogen contents at the lower slope position than at the upper slope position. Moreover, the increased soil respiration and decreased temperature sensitivity at the lower slope position were partially due to copiotrophs replacing oligotrophs. Such spatial variations along slopes must be properly accounted for when estimating the carbon budget and feedback of future climate change on hillslope ecosystems.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Climate, Soil, Ecosystem, Erosion, Carbon cycle, Loess


Calligonum mongolicum is a successful pioneer shrub to combat desertification, which is widely used for vegetation restoration in the desert regions of northwest China. In order to reveal the limitations to natural regeneration ofC. mongolicumby asexual and sexual reproduction, following the process of sand dune stabilization, we assessed clonal shoots, seedling emergence, soil seed bank density, and soil physical characteristics in mobile and stabilized sand dunes. Controlled field and pot experiments were also conducted to assess germination and seedling emergence in different dune soil types and seed burial depths. The population density of matureC. mongolicumwas significantly different after sand dune stabilization. Juvenile density ofC. mongolicmwas much lower in stabilized sand dunes than mobile sand dune. There was no significant difference in soil seed bank density at three soil depths between mobile and stabilized sand dunes, while the emergence of seedlings in stabilized dunes was much lower than emergence in mobile dunes. There was no clonal propagation found in stabilized dunes, and very fewC. mongolicumseedlings were established on stabilized sand dunes. Soil clay and silt content, air-filled porosity, and soil surface compaction were significantly changed from mobile sand dune to stabilized dunes. Seedling emergence ofC. mongolicmwas highly dependent on soil physical condition. These results indicated that changes in soil physical condition limited clonal propagation and seedling emergence ofC. mongolicumin stabilized sand dunes. Seed bank density was not a limiting factor; however, poor seedling establishment limitedC. mongolicum'sfurther natural regeneration in stabilized sand dunes. Therefore, clonal propagation may be the most important mode for population expansion in mobile sand dunes. As a pioneer speciesC. mongolicumis well adapted to propagate in mobile sand dune conditions, it appears unlikely to survive naturally in stabilized sand dune plantations.

Concepts: Seed, Germination, Sand, Desert, Dune, Loess, Aeolian processes, Singing sand


Soil and nutrient loss is a common natural phenomenon but it exhibits unclear understanding especially on bare loess soil with variable rainfall intensity and slope gradient, which makes it difficult to design control measures for agricultural diffuse pollution. We employ 30 artificial simulated rainfalls (six rainfall intensities and five slope gradients) to quantify the coupling loss correlation of runoff-sediment-adsorbed and dissolved nitrogen and phosphorus on bare loess slope. Here, we show that effects of rainfall intensity on runoff yield was stronger than slope gradient with prolongation of rainfall duration, and the effect of slope gradient on runoff yield reduced gradually with increased rainfall intensity. But the magnitude of initial sediment yield increased significantly from an average value of 6.98 g at 5° to 36.08 g at 25° with increased slope gradient. The main factor of sediment yield would be changed alternately with the dual increase of slope gradient and rainfall intensity. Dissolved total nitrogen (TN) and dissolved total phosphorus (TP) concentrations both showed significant fluctuations with rainfall intensity and slope gradient, and dissolved TP concentration was far less than dissolved TN. Under the double influences of rainfall intensity and slope gradient, adsorbed TN concentration accounted for 7-82% of TN loss concentration with an average of 58.6% which was the main loss form of soil nitrogen, adsorbed TP concentration accounted for 91.8-98.7% of TP loss concentration with an average of 96.6% which was also the predominant loss pathway of soil phosphorus. Nitrate nitrogen (NO3–N) accounted for 14.59-73.92% of dissolved TN loss, and ammonia nitrogen (NH4+-N) accounted for 1.48-18.03%. NO3–N was the main loss pattern of TN in runoff. Correlation between dissolved TN, runoff yield, and rainfall intensity was obvious, and a significant correlation was also found between adsorbed TP, sediment yield, and slope gradient. Our results provide the underlying insights needed to guide the control of nitrogen and phosphorus loss on loess hills.

Concepts: Gradient, Eutrophication, Soil, Silt, Slope, Loess, Iowa, Loess Hills


In the world-famous sediments of the Chinese Loess Plateau, fossil soils alternate with windblown dust layers to record monsoonal variations over the last ∼3 My. The less-weathered, weakly magnetic dust layers reflect drier, colder glaciations. The fossil soils (paleosols) contain variable concentrations of nanoscale, strongly magnetic iron oxides, formed in situ during the wetter, warmer interglaciations. Mineralogical identification of the magnetic soil oxides is essential for deciphering these key paleoclimatic records. Formation of magnetite, a mixed Fe2+/Fe3+ ferrimagnet, has been linked to soil redox oscillations, and thence to paleorainfall. An opposite hypothesis states that magnetite can only form if the soil is water saturated for significant periods in order for Fe3+ to be reduced to Fe2+, and suggests instead the temperature-dependent formation of maghemite, an Fe3+-oxide, much of which ages subsequently into hematite, typically aluminum substituted. This latter, oxidizing pathway would have been temperature, but not rainfall dependent. Here, through structural fingerprinting and scanning transmission electron microscopy and electron energy loss spectroscopy analysis, we prove that magnetite is the dominant soil-formed ferrite. Maghemite is present in lower concentrations, and shows no evidence of aluminum substitution, negating its proposed precursor role for the aluminum-substituted hematite prevalent in the paleosols. Magnetite dominance demonstrates that magnetite formation occurs in well-drained, generally oxidizing soils, and that soil wetting/drying oscillations drive the degree of soil magnetic enhancement. The magnetic variations of the Chinese Loess Plateau paleosols thus record changes in monsoonal rainfall, over timescales of millions of years.

Concepts: Iron, Soil, Nitrogen, Erosion, Magnetite, Electron energy loss spectroscopy, Loess, Loess Plateau