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Effects of agricultural management systems on soil organic carbon in aggregates of Ustolls and Usterts

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Soil erosion contributes to the removal and redistribution of soil organic C from cultivated fields. The soil organic C content of wind erodible and water unstable aggregates is an important factor in determining the amount of carbon loss occurring in erosion processes. The relative distribution of organic carbon among aggregate size fractions may also affect the response of soils to erosion. Soil organic C distribution is dependent on the chosen management system. The effects of no-till, till, and grassland management systems on organic C content of erodible and non-erodible aggregates were examined in six Ustolls and two Usterts of central South Dakota. Organic C contents were related to dry- and wet-sieving to represent the potential influence of wind and water erosion on C loss in the absence of vegetative cover. Loss of aggregate stability in cultivated soils was associated with organic C loss. Most structural characteristics developed under tilled systems persisted after 6-16 years of no-till. Changes in distribution of organic C due to management systems were most evident in Ustolls where cultivation resulted in net soil C losses. Soil organic C was not significantly increased by the no-tillage practices applied in this on-farm study (in Ustolls 49 Mg ha(-1) in no-till versus 41 Mg ha-1 in till, for 0-0.20 m depth). Soil properties of Usterts were less affected by land use and management practices due to the high shrink swell action and self-mixing. In both soil orders the greater concentration of organic C in the wind erodible (< 1 mm) dry aggregate size fraction implies a high potential for organic C loss by erosion in addition to organic C loss from mineralization after tillage. Grassland when compared to cultivated topsoil showed the largest amounts of organic carbon stored and the minimal potential for erosion loss of soil organic C.
Eynard, A. , Schumacher, T.E. , Lindstrom, M.J. , Malo, D.D.
In the special issue: Soil erosion and carbon dynamics / edited by R. Lal.
Soil & tillage research 2005 Apr., v. 81, issue 2
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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