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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Soil carbon sequestration with continuous no-till management of grain cropping systems in the Virginia coastal plain

Authors
item Spargo, John - VA TECH, BLACKSBURG, VA
item Alley, Marcus - VA TECH, BLACKSBURG, VA
item Follett, Ronald
item Wallace, James - COL SWCD, QUINTON, VA

Submitted to: Soil and Tillage Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 20, 2008
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Continuous no-till is a sustainable management practice within this region of Virgina, has a number of agronomic and environmental benefits, and based upon the data presented here its implementation should be encouraged on all crop production fields where the elimination of tillage is practical. Future research will need to address C storage within the entire profile of these systems in order to address concerns that our shallow sampling protocol may have over-estimated C-sequestration with continuous no-till management.

Technical Abstract: Carbon sequestration in agroecosystems represents a significant opportunity to offset a portion of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Climatic conditions in the Virginia coastal plain and modern production practices make it possible for high annual photosynthetic CO2 fixation. There is potential to sequester a substantial amount of C, and concomitantly improve soil quality, with the elimination of tillage for crop production in this region. The objectives of our research were to: (1) measure C sequestration rate with continuous no-till management of grain cropping systems of the Virginia middle coastal plain; (2) determine the influence of biosolids application history on C content and its interaction with tillage management; and (3) evaluate the impact of continuous no-till C stratification as an indicator of soil quality. Samples were collected from 63 sites in production fields using a rotation of corn (Zea mays L.)– wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) or barley (Hordeum vulgare L.)/soybean double-crop (Glysine max L.) across three soil series [Bojac (coarse-loamy, mixed, semiactive, thermic Typic Hapludults), Altavista (fineloamy, mixed semiactive, thermic Aquic Hapludults), and Kempsville (fine-loamy, siliceous, subactive, thermic Typic Hapludults)] with a history of continuous no-till management ranging from 0 to 14 years. Thirty-two of the sites had a history of biosolids application. Five soil cores were collected at each site from 0–2.5, 2.5–7.5 and 7.5–15 cm and analyzed for bulk density and soil C. Bulk density in the 0–2.5 cm layer decreased and C stratification ratio (0–2.5 cm/5–15 cm) increased with increasing duration of continuous no-till due to the accumulation of organic matter at the soil surface. A history of biosolids application resulted in an increase of 4.19 + 1.93 Mg C/ha (0–15 cm). Continuous no-till resulted in the sequestration of 0.308 + 0.280 Mg C/ ha/yr (0–15 cm). Our results provide quantitative validation of the C sequestration rate and improved soil quality with continuous no-till management in the region using on-farm observations. [GRACENet publication].

Last Modified: 12/26/2014
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