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Plowing a poorly drained grassland reduced soil respiration

MacDonald, J.D., Angers, D.A., Rochette, P., Chantigny, M.H., Royer, I., Gasser, M.O. (2010). Plowing a poorly drained grassland reduced soil respiration, 74(6), 2067-2076.


Managed grasslands are a predominant land use in northern temperate regions. They are often on poorly drained soils and contain large stocks of soil organic carbon (SOC). It is important to understand C dynamics in grasslands to better assess their role in regional C budgets. Two adjacent grassland plots, one amended with 100 m3 ha-1 of liquid swine manure (LSM) annually since 1978, and another unamended were killed by glyphosate in the autumn or (i) left with vegetation intact. Those killed were either (ii) left as an undisturbed chemical fallow, (iii) plowed by full-inversion tillage (FIT) in the autumn, or (iv) in the spring. Following the autumn plowing, we monitored CO2 emissions from the fallow soil surface, CO2 concentrations in the soil profile, soil temperature, and soil water content for 1 yr. Changes in soil aggregation, the light fraction organic matter, and microbial biomass were also monitored. Plowing decreased the total microbial biomass on average by 27 g C m-2, the quantity of water-stable aggregates by 7 to 12% and with it the concentration of light fraction organic matter. Respiration was also reduced by 142 g CO2-C m-2 by autumn-FIT and 175 g CO2-C m-2 by spring-FIT on unamended soils, and 90 g CO2-C m-2 by autumn-FIT and 98 g CO 2-C m-2 by spring-FIT on amended soils. Regression analyses suggested that reductions in CO2 emissions were due to the placement of surface SOC at depth where soil temperature and oxygen availability were attenuated. In these soils, the cool humid conditions at depth in the soil profile may act to counter-balance the physical effects of tillage thereby preserving C deep in the soil profile. Effective calculation of C budgets and changes in SOC stocks depends on the ability to reproduce the interaction between climate, soil type, land use, and management action. A more complete understanding of the effect of management actions that modify the vertical distribution of biogeochemical (particularly organic C) and environmental parameters on soil respiration in poorly drained soils is required. © Soil Science Society of America, 5585 Guilford Rd., Madison WI 53711 USA All rights reserved.

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