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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SOIL CARBON CYCLING, TRACE GAS EMISSION, TILLAGE AND CROP RESIDUE MANAGEMENT

Location: Soil Management Research

Title: Carbon and Ecosystem Services from No Till Agriculture

Author
item Reicosky, Donald

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: January 28, 2010
Publication Date: January 28, 2010
Citation: Reicosky, D.C. 2010. Carbon and Ecosystem Services from No Till Agriculture. Nouricia Cooperative. [video]. Available: http://www.groupe-nouricia/index.php?id=483.

Technical Abstract: The world's farmers must broaden their perspective and shift conservation concepts and programs away from managing for only yield and erosion control to managing soil carbon (C) for crop production sustainability and maintaining environmental quality. This work reviews research on new technology, tillage-induced C losses and environmental benefits of soil C. This research highlights the major roles of the agronomist and the farmer in optimizing the canopy conditions to maximize solar energy and C capture for photosynthesis and managing nutrient cycling for optimum crop production and minimum environmental impact. With conservation tillage, crop residues are left more naturally on the surface to protect the soil and control the conversion of plant C to SOM (soil organic matter) and humus. Intensive tillage releases soil C to the atmosphere as CO2 where it combines with other gases to contribute to the greenhouse effect. The combination of reducing the volume of soil disturbed by intensive tillage and using direct seeding techniques should enhance soil and air quality by increasing soil C content. Management emphasis on diverse rotations must be combined with maximum biomass and yield production and the use of cover crops to maximize the C input into the soil system. The smaller CO2 loss following conservation tillage tools is significant and suggests progress in conservation tillage tool development that can enhance soil C management. Conservation tillage reduces the extent, frequency and magnitude of mechanical disturbance caused by the moldboard plow and reduces the air-filled macropores and slows the rate of C oxidation. Any effort to decrease tillage intensity and maximize residue return should result in C sequestration for enhanced environmental quality. The soil is the fundamental foundation of our economy and our existence. While soil erosion continues to be a major problem, we must expand our thinking to address related soil quality issues, which translates to soil C. Carbon management to reduce our C footprint is required to address complex issues including soil, water, air quality, biofuels, and climate change. In order to maintain sustainability of the soil resource, we must think about soil C management and make efforts to maximize soil C input and minimize C loss. We must place an emphasis on conservation of all natural resources and additional emphasis on C as a key component in maintaining ecosystem stability and environmental quality.

Last Modified: 8/19/2014
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