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Contribution of crop residue carbon to soil respiration at a northern Prairie site using stable isotope flux measurements.

Glenn, A.J., Amiro, B.D., Tenuta, M., Wagner-Riddle, C., Drewitt, G.B., and Warland, J.S. (2011). "Contribution of crop residue carbon to soil respiration at a northern Prairie site using stable isotope flux measurements.", Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 151(8), pp. 1045-1054. doi : 10.1016/j.agrformet.2011.03.008  Access to full text


Heterotrophic respiration from agricultural soils can be differentiated as originating from microbial decomposition of recent litter inputs or crop residue carbon (CRC) and resident soil organic carbon (SOC) pools of varying age and stages of decomposition. Our objective was to determine the relative contributions of these pools to respiration in a northern agroecosystem where the non-growing season is long. A tunable diode laser trace gas analyzer was used to determine atmospheric stable C isotope ratio (δ13C) values and 12CO2 and 13CO2 fluxes over an agricultural field in the Red River Valley of southern Manitoba, Canada. Measurement campaigns were conducted in the fall of 2006 and spring of 2007 following harvest of a maize (C4) crop from soil having SOC derived from previous C3 crops. Stable CO2 isotopologue gradients were measured from the center of four 200 × 200 m experimental plots, and fluxes were calculated using the aerodynamic flux gradient method. The soil in two of the experimental plots underwent intensive tillage, while the other two plots were managed using a form of reduced tillage. Approximately 70% and 20–30% of the total respiration flux originated from the maize C4-CRC during the fall of 2006 and spring of 2007, respectively. At least 25% of the maize residue was lost to respiration during this non-growing period. No difference in the partitioning of heterotrophic respiration into that derived from CRC and SOC was detected between the intensive tillage and recently established reduced tillage treatments at the site.

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