Testing for soil carbon saturation behavior in agricultural soils receiving long-term manure amendments.

Feng, W., Xu, M., Fan, M., Malhi, S.S., Schoenau, J.J., Six, J., and Plante, A.F. (2014). "Testing for soil carbon saturation behavior in agricultural soils receiving long-term manure amendments.", Canadian Journal of Soil Science, 94(3), pp. 281-294. doi : 10.4141/CJSS2013-012  Access to full text


Agricultural soils are typically depleted in soil organic matter compared with their undisturbed counterparts, thus reducing their fertility. Organic amendments, particularly manures, provide the opportunity to restore soil organic matter stocks, improve soil fertility and potentially sequester atmospheric carbon (C). The application of the soil C saturation theory can help identify soils with large C storage potentials. The goal of this study was to test whether soil C saturation can be observed in various soil types in agricultural ecosystems receiving long-term manure amendments. Seven long-term agricultural field experiments from China and Canada were selected for this study. Manure amendments increased C concentrations in bulk soil, particulate organic matter+sand, and silt+clay fractions in all the experiments. The increase in C concentrations of silt+clay did not fit the asymptotic regression as a function of C inputs better than the linear regression, indicating that silt+clay did not exhibit C saturation behavior. However, 44% of calculated C loading values for silt+clay were greater than the presumed maximal C loading, suggesting that this maximum may be greater than 1 mg C m2 for many soils. The influences of soil mineral surface properties on C concentrations of silt+clay fractions were site specific. Fine soil particles did not exhibit C saturation behavior likely because current C inputs were insufficient to fill the large C saturation deficits of intensely cultivated soils, suggesting these soils may continue to act as sinks for atmospheric C.

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