Carbon dioxide emissions from tillage of two long-term no-till Canadian prairie soils.

Shahidi, B.M.R., Dyck, M.F., and Malhi, S.S. (2014). "Carbon dioxide emissions from tillage of two long-term no-till Canadian prairie soils.", Soil & Tillage Research, 144, pp. 72-82. doi : 10.1016/j.still.2014.07.008  Access to full text


Agricultural soils under long-term zero tillage (no-till) management have been well known to sequester atmospheric carbon (C) in soil organic matter as well as to reduce emissions of major greenhouse gases. This fact aided the development of the present C offset market around the world and is the basis for no tillage or conservation tillage agriculture as a potential low cost means of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The province of Alberta, Canada currently has C offset protocols under which companies that fail to achieve targeted emission reduction can purchase C credits from agricultural farms that have changed tillage management practices. Our study aimed at quantifying the major GHG carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from two major agricultural soil types in Western Canada (i.e., Black Chernozem and Gray Luvisol) managed under long-term (∼30 years) no-till after tillage reversal. We also studied the influences of soil temperature and soil moisture, nitrogen (N) fertilization (i.e., no N vs. 100 kg N ha1) and inherent soil fertility on the magnitude of tillage reversal impact on soil CO2 emissions. Our study revealed that the CO2 emissions were higher after tillage reversal irrespective of N fertilizer applications, soil types and soil physical environment. Comparative study between historic soil C sequestration after the adoption of long-term no-till and the GHG emissions in the form of CO2 fluxes after tillage reversal on these study plots showed that the short-term rates of C emissions after tillage reversal were higher than the long-term rates of C sequestration. However, since the time scales for comparing the sequestration and emission rates were so different, these results are expected and reasonable. These results, however, indicate that increased soil C storage resulting from changes in agricultural management practices are reversible and that the potential for C sequestration is dependent on the long-term trends of management practices.

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