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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Carbon and Nutrient Cycles

item Delgado, Jorge
item Follett, Ronald

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 24, 2002
Publication Date: August 30, 2000

Interpretive Summary: Increased worldwide use of nutrients and larger animal feeding operations are increasing new pathways for nutrient transport and redistribution. Animal manures and compost of organic materials have increased the nutrient cycle potential of plant-animal operations. Soil organic C improves soil fertility and soil chemical and physical properties that improve root growth conditions. Carbon management contributes to reduce nutrient losses, increase nutrient cycling, increase nutrient use efficiencies and reduce losses to the environment. Carbon management has significant direct and indirect economical benefits for farmers. Directly, it cycles significant amount of nutrients. Indirectly, contributes to improve soil fertility, productivity, sustainability and higher yields. Additionally, by sequestering atmospheric carbon, reducing soil erosion, and contributing to soil and water quality, carbon management contributes to conserve our biosphere.

Technical Abstract: Soil erosion and off site transport of nutrients are contributing to reduce soil productivity and impacting water bodies across different world regions. Additionally, antropogenic activities are contributing to higher atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and nitric oxide (NO) that contribute to global warming. We want to present the concept that nutrient management plans should incorporate soil organic carbon (SOC) management to reduce soil erosion, cycle macro and micronutrients, increase nutrient use efficiency, and conserve air, soil and water quality. Plant-derived materials are the primary source of carbon ( C ) in soil organic matter (SOM), with C being the most abundant constituent and common partner of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and sulfur (S). Manures, compost, or other organic sources can contribute to cycle organic C and nutrients. Organic C can contribute to form chelate compounds that increase availability of essential micronutrients to interchange with the root surface. Management practices that increase C inputs, contribute to reduce erosion and increase SOC which improves soil quality factors such as cation exchange capacity, water holding capacity, aggregate formation, porosity and drainage. Carbon management and nutrient cycling should be an integral part of nutrient management plans for maintaining the sustainability of our biosphere.

Last Modified: 5/5/2015