Surface-atmosphere exchange of carbon dioxide, water, and heat across a dryland wheat-fallow rotation

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Agriculture


Summerfallow - the practice of keeping a field out of production during the growing season - is a common practice in dryland wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) cropping systems, including those of Montana. It is currently unknown how seasonal patterns of carbon dioxide, water, and heat flux between ecosystems and the atmosphere differ between fallow and wheat. This study quantifies the impact of dryland wheat vs. chemical fallow agricultural management practices on these important surface-atmosphere exchanges using the eddy covariance method across a winter wheat - spring wheat - fallow rotation in the Judith Basin, MT. I used a suite of meteorological sensors to measure relative humidity, air temperature, soil moisture, wind speed and direction, incident and reflected shortwave radiation, upwelling and downwelling longwave radiation, crop height, and soil heat flux to further quantify the impacts of this cropping sequence on biophysical attributes of the land surface and to model turbulent fluxes. Both wheat fields were carbon sinks on the order of 110 to 205 g C m -2 during the April to September study periods of 2013 and 2014, while the fallow field was a carbon source to the atmosphere on the order of 135 g C m -2 during the April to September study period of 2014. Evapotranspiration (ET) was over 100 mm greater in a spring wheat field than in a simultaneously measured fallow field during the 2014 study period, and modeled maximum daily atmospheric boundary layer height was up to 800 m higher in fallow compared to spring wheat. Results demonstrate that fallow has a detrimental impact to soil carbon resources yet is less water intensive, with consequences for regional climate via its impacts on atmospheric boundary layer development and global climate via its carbon metabolism.




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