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Soil carbon lost from Mollisols of the North Central U.S.A. with 20 years of agricultural best management practices

Sanford, Gregg R., Posner, Joshua L., Jackson, Randall D., Kucharik, Christopher J., Hedtcke, Janet L., Lin, Ting-Li
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2012 v.162 pp. 68-76
Mollisols, carbon, carbon sequestration, cropping systems, crops, no-tillage, pastures, roots, soil organic carbon, soil profiles, soil sampling, Wisconsin
Soil organic carbon (SOC) is highly sensitive to agricultural land management, so there is a great deal of interest in managing cultivated soils to sequester atmospheric CO₂. In this study we evaluated the influence of six cropping systems on SOC at the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping System Trial (WICST) over a 20-year period. Analysis of SOC on either a concentration or mass per volume of soil basis indicated a significant decline across all of the systems at WICST. While the rotationally grazed pasture system sequestered carbon (C) in the surface 15cm these gains were offset by losses at depth. Both no-till (NT) practices and inclusion of perennial crops reduced SOC loss, but neither resulted in C sequestration in the soil profile. Results from this study demonstrate the importance of (i) comparing current and initial soil samples when evaluating SOC sequestration and (ii) evaluating SOC changes throughout the soil profile. The losses of SOC at depths below the plow layer point to either a lack of C input from roots, increased oxidative loss at these depths or both.
  Data from: Underestimation of N2O emissions in a comparison of the DayCent, DNDC, and EPIC 1 models
  Greenhouse gas fluxes from a dairy cropping system at the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping System Trials