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Modeling soil organic carbon and carbon dioxide emissions in different tillage systems supported by precision agriculture technologies under current climatic conditions

Cillis, Donato, Maestrini, Bernardo, Pezzuolo, Andrea, Marinello, Francesco, Sartori, Luigi
Soil & tillage research 2018 v.183 pp. 51-59
agricultural conservation practice, biosphere, carbon dioxide, carbon sequestration, climatic factors, conventional tillage, crop yield, fertilizers, fossil fuels, genotype, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, long term effects, minimum tillage, no-tillage, precision agriculture, simulation models, soil organic carbon, soil profiles
Soil organic matter (SOM) represents the biggest pool of carbon within the biosphere and influences the flux of greenhouse gases between land surface and atmosphere. In this regard, conservation tillage systems have been adopted to reduce negative impacts of conventional tillage practices on greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. However, the role of these techniques to increase carbon sequestration also depends upon soil features and climatic conditions, which is studied and managed by precision agriculture (PA) principles and technologies. Simulation models have shown to be useful tools to understand the interaction between soil, climate, genotypes and management practices to simulate the long-term effects of management approaches of different soils on crop yield, soil organic carbon (SOC) storage, and GHG emissions. The research goals of this study are (1) to examine the mid-term (15 years) trajectory of SOC in the upper 0.4 m of the soil profile under different tillage systems using the SALUS model; (2) determine the impact of PA on the inputs to the crop and CO2 emissions; (3) identify the strategies, derived from the synergy between conservation agriculture and PA, so as to decrease the CO2 emissions of agricultural systems. The validated SALUS simulation showed a significant reduction in SOC losses in minimum tillage (MT) and no-tillage (NT), 17% and 63% respectively, compared to conventional tillage (CT). Furthermore, the adoption of conservation tillage techniques decreased carbon emissions related to farming operations, while PA technologies led to an optimization of the exhaustible sources such as fossil fuels and fertilizers. Finally, the synergy between conservation tillage systems, especially NT, and PA strategies represents a useful tool in terms of carbon emissions mitigation with a reduction of 56% of total CO2 as compared to CT.