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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Cropping system diversity maintains or even improves soil organic carbon levels

item Varvel, Gary

Submitted to: Natural Resources Research Update (NRRU)
Publication Type: Research Technical Update
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/24/2008
Publication Date: 3/5/2009
Publication URL:
Citation: Varvel, G.E. 2009. Cropping system diversity maintains or even improves soil organic carbon levels. Natural Resources Research Update (NRRU). Update #238676. Available at:

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Storage of carbon by agricultural soils has been cited as one solution to soil degradation and global climate change. However, carbon sequestration in soils is a very slow and dynamic process. After 18 years in a rainfed environment in the western Corn Belt, soil organic carbon losses were occurring in monoculture corn, soybean, and sorghum as well as 2-yr soybean-corn and soybean-sorghum cropping systems, but not in two 4-yr cropping systems. These 4-yr cropping systems included an oat+clover crop once every four years that may be contributing a much greater amount of belowground biomass than any of the monoculture or 2-yr cropping systems. Producers may be able to maintain or even improve their soil organic carbon stocks by utilizing cropping systems that include even one year of a deep rooted legume. Publications contributing to the NRRU Release as shown above: Varvel, G.E. 2006. Soil Organic Carbon Changes in Diversified Rotations of the Western Corn Belt. Soil Science Society of America Journal. 70:426-433.

Last Modified: 09/19/2017
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