Projected climate effects on soil workability and trafficability determine the feasibility of converting permanent grassland to arable land

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Wu, L., Wu, L., Bingham, I. and Misselbrook, T. H. 2022. Projected climate effects on soil workability and trafficability determine the feasibility of converting permanent grassland to arable land. Agricultural Systems. 203, p. 103500.

AuthorsWu, L., Wu, L., Bingham, I. and Misselbrook, T. H.

Adapting to changes in climate and in consumer demand for commodities will force us to diversify land uses from the current status. Livestock grazing systems are dominant agricultural practices in the western regions of the British Isles. It has been suggested that grasslands in the region could be converted to other land uses, e.g. growing of cereal crops. We hypothesized that soil workability and trafficability would be important factors determining the feasibility and environmental impact of such conversion.
Objectives were 1) to investigate the impacts of weather conditions under the current (baseline) climate on agronomic management and crop yield of winter wheat using the SPACSYS model; and 2) to assess potential impacts of the land use conversion (grassland converted into arable land) on the environment under soil conditions representative of the region under baseline and future climatic conditions.
Using simulation modelling we investigated the impacts of baseline and future climates under the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP2.6, 4.5 and RCP8.5) on soil workability and trafficability at sowing and harvest respectively of winter wheat and its consequences for crop productivity and key indices of environmental sustainability for three major soil types of the region.
Under baseline and future projections, the probability of successfully sowing winter wheat on these soils was between 38 and 76%. Simulations showed that grassland conversion to arable in the region would not be sustainable in terms of carbon sequestration with a decline in soil carbon stock of 165 – 280 kg C ha–1 yr–1 on average over the simulation period. Rates of decline were greater when soil workability was taken into consideration. Although CO2eq emissions from silage–based grassland soil were higher than those from the converted arable land, these were offset by the greater net productivity of grassland making it a larger net sink for carbon. When soil workability at sowing was considered, the NUEcrop (crop N content/N fertilizer applied) for winter wheat was lower than that for perennial ryegrass on all soil types under the baseline climate and RCP2.6, but comparable or greater under RCP4.5 and RCP8.5. In terms of C sequestration, grassland conversion for production of winter wheat is unsustainable under these soil–climatic conditions.
Our results demonstrated that soil workability is a major factor influencing the potential impact of land-use conversion in clay soils and a wetter climate.

KeywordsModelling; SPACSYS; Land–use conversion; Soil workability; Winter wheat
Year of Publication2022
JournalAgricultural Systems
Journal citation203, p. 103500
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderUK-China Virtual Joint Centre for Agricultural Nitrogen
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeUK - China Virtual Joint Centre for Improved Nitrogen Agronomy (CINAG)
S2N - Soil to Nutrition - Work package 2 (WP2) - Adaptive management systems for improved efficiency and nutritional quality
S2N - Soil to Nutrition - Work package 3 (WP3) - Sustainable intensification - optimisation at multiple scales
Publisher's version
Accepted author manuscript
Supplemental file
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online12 Sep 2022
Publication process dates
Accepted04 Sep 2022
PublisherElsevier Sci Ltd

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