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Soil Carbon Changes Influenced by Soil Management and Calculation Method

Mikha, Maysoon M., Benjamin, Joseph G., Halvorson, Ardell D., Nielsen, David C.
ARS USDA Submissions 2013 v.3 no.2 pp. 123
Zea mays, bulk density, carbon, chiseling, continuous cropping, corn, crop rotation, crops, irrigation scheduling, multiple cropping, no-tillage, silt loam soils, soil organic carbon, temporal variation
Throughout the years, many studies have evaluated changes in soil organic carbon (SOC) mass on a fixed-depth (FD) basis without considering changes in soil mass caused by changing bulk density (?b). This study evaluates the temporal changes in SOC caused by two factors: 1) changing SOC concentration; and 2) changing equivalent soil mass (ESM) in comparison with FD. In addition, this study evaluates calculating changes in SOC stock over time using a minimum equivalent soil mass (ESMmin) basis from a single sampling event compared with the FD scenario. A tillage [no-tillage (NT) and chisel plow (CP)]-crop rotation (multiple crop and continuous corn), and irrigation (full and delayed)) study was initiated in 2001 on Weld silt loam soil. After seven years, SOC concentration in the 0 - 30 cm depth was 19.7% greater in 2008 compared with 2001. Standardizing the soil mass of 2001 to the ESM of 2008 for each individual treatment showed an average gain in SOC of 5.8 Mg C?ha-1 in 2008 compared with 2001. However, the increase in SOC using ESM was twice the SOC gained with the FD calculation, where some treatments lost SOC after seven years of management. Estimating SOC levels using the ESMmin and, thereby, eliminating the confounding effect of soil ?b indicated that SOC stock was influenced by crop species and their interaction with irrigation, but not by tillage practices. Over all, the ESM calculation appears to be more effective in evaluating SOC stock than the FD calculation.