Impacts of periodic tillage on soil C stocks : a synthesis

Conant, Richard T., Easter, Mark, Paustian, Keith, Swan, Amy, & Williams, Stephen (2007) Impacts of periodic tillage on soil C stocks : a synthesis. Soil & Tillage Research, 95(1-2), pp. 1-10.

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Long-term loss of soil C stocks under conventional tillage and accrual of soil C following adoption of no-tillage have been well documented. No-tillage use is spreading, but it is common to occasionally till within a no-till regime or to regularly alternate between till and no-till practices within a rotation of different crops. Short-term studies indicate that substantial amounts of C can be lost from the soil immediately following a tillage event, but there are few field studies that have investigated the impact of infrequent tillage on soil C stocks. How much of the C sequestered under no-tillage is likely to be lost if the soil is tilled? What are the longer-term impacts of continued infrequent no-tillage? If producers are to be compensated for sequestering C in soil following adoption of conservation tillage practices, the impacts of infrequent tillage need to be quantified. A few studies have examined the short-term impacts of tillage on soil C and several have investigated the impacts of adoption of continuous no-tillage. We present: (1) results from a modeling study carried out to address these questions more broadly than the published literature allows, (2) a review of the literature examining the short-term impacts of tillage on soil C, (3) a review of published studies on the physical impacts of tillage and (4) a synthesis of these components to assess how infrequent tillage impacts soil C stocks and how changes in tillage frequency could impact soil C stocks and C sequestration. Results indicate that soil C declines significantly following even one tillage event (1-11 % of soil C lost). Longer-term losses increase as frequency of tillage increases. Model analyses indicate that cultivating and ripping are less disruptive than moldboard plowing, and soil C for those treatments average just 6% less than continuous NT compared to 27% less for CT. Most (80%) of the soil C gains of NT can be realized with NT coupled with biannual cultivating or ripping. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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ID Code: 37767
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Agriculture; Soil carbon; Tillage; Tillage intensity; Tillage frequency
DOI: 10.1016/j.still.2006.12.006
ISSN: 0167-1987
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES (050000) > ECOLOGICAL APPLICATIONS (050100)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES (050000) > SOIL SCIENCES (050300)
Divisions: Past > Institutes > Institute for Sustainable Resources
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2007 Elsevier BV
Deposited On: 08 Oct 2010 00:14
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 14:19

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