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Soil Carbon and Crop Yields Affected by Irrigation, Tillage, Cropping System, and Nitrogen Fertilization

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Information on management practices is needed to increase surface residue and soil C sequestration to obtain farm C credit. The effects of irrigation, tillage, cropping system, and N fertilization were evaluated on the amount of crop biomass (stems and leaves) returned to the soil, surface residue C, and soil organic C (SOC) at the 0-85 cm depth in a sandy loam soil from 2005 to 2011 in lands converted from grassland to cropland in western North Dakota, USA. Treatments were two irrigation practices (irrigated vs. non-irrigated) and six cropping systems (Conservation Reserve Program [CRP], conventional till malt barley with N fertilizer [CTBN], conventional till malt barley without N fertilizer [CTBO], no-till malt barley-pea with N fertilizer [NTB-P], no-till malt barley with N fertilizer [NTBN], and no-till malt barley without N fertilizer [NTBO]). Crop biomass varied with treatments and years and was greater in irrigated CTBN, NTB-P, and NTBN than other treatments. Soil surface residue amount and C content were greater in CRP and NTBN than other cropping systems, regardless of irrigation practices. The SOC at 0-5 cm was greater in irrigated CRP, but at 0-85 cm was greater in non-irrigated NTBN than other treatments, except irrigated and non-irrigated CRP and non-irrigated NTBO. At 0-50 cm, SOC decreased by 0.05 to 0.17 Mg C ha-1 yr-1 in irrigated and non-irrigated treatments from 2005 to 2011. At 0-20 cm, SOC increased by 0.22 to 1.80 Mg C ha-1 yr-1 in NTB-P and CRP, but decreased by 0.02 to 0.63 Mg C ha-1 yr-1 in other cropping systems. Surface residue C and SOC at 0-10 cm were related in linear and curvilinear fashions to annualized crop grain yield (R2 = 0.45-0.77, P = 0.12, n = 10). Perennial cropping systems, such as CRP, increased soil C storage compared to annual cropping systems, regardless of irrigation practices. Because of increased C sequestration rate and favorable crop yields compared to other cropping systems, no-till malt barley-pea rotation with adequate N fertilization may be used as a management option to increase C storage in surface residue and sandy loam soil (0-20 cm) and sustain yields in annual cropping systems, regardless of irrigation practices, in the northern Great Plains, USA.
Upendra M. Sainju , William B. Stevens , Thecan Caesar-TonThat
USDA Scientist Submission
Soil Science Society of America journal 2014 v.78 no.3
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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