Soil frost control: Agricultural adaptation to climate variability in a cold region of Japan

Tomoyoshi Hirota, Kazuei Usuki, Masaki Hayashi, Manabu Nemoto, Yukiyoshi Iwata, Yosuke Yanai, Tomotsugu Yazaki, Satoshi Inoue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


In the northernmost region of Japan (Hokkaido Island), earlier onsets of thick snowcover in recent years (post 1980) have reduced the penetration depth of soil frost, resulting in over-winter survival of unharvested small potato (Solanum tuberosum) tubers that emerge as weeds in the spring in rotation crop fields. To prevent the occurrence of potato weeds, a method was developed to manipulate soil-frost depths by artificially controlling snowcover thickness, guided by a simple numerical model that simulates soil freezing-thawing processes using daily mean air temperature and snowcover thinckness as input variables. The method involves removal of snowcover to expose the soil surface in the beginning of winter until the soil freezes to a sufficient depth. After that time, snow is deposited back or allowed to accumulate naturally to prevent further penetration of frost, which may cause undesirable delay in the seeding of spring crops. Field trials indicated that the model predicted frost depths within several centimeters of observed values, when measured temperature and snowcover thickness were used as model input. Based on the field and laboratory data, a soil temperature of -3°C is necessary for complete elimination of potato tubers. To achieve this temperature in potato-burial zones without causing excessive freezing, an optimal frost depth is 0.3 to 0.4 m. The method is being adopted by progressive potato producers in the region, who use tractor-mounted snow ploughs to manipulate snowcover over a large scale. This is an emerging new technology for agricultural adaptation to climate variability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)791-802
Number of pages12
JournalMitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology


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