Submitted to: Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/17/2010
Publication Date: 3/22/2010
Citation: Lopez-Bellido, J., Lal, R., Owens, L.B., Lopez-Bellido, L. 2010. Does North Appalachian Agriculture Contribute to Soil Carbon Sequestration. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. 137(3-4):373-376. Interpretive Summary: Agricultural systems are an important part of our “carbon footprint”; they can be sources for CO2 emissions or sinks to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. Eight commonly used agricultural systems in northern Appalachia were studied at the North Appalachian Experimental Watershed near Coshocton, OH to measure changes in soil organic carbon (SOC) over a 38 year span. SOC was measured at different soil depths in 1969 and again in 2007 to see whether land management practices changed the SOC over time. It was found that SOC increased under forest management and no-till corn with manure added. Continuous corn and/or no-tillage practices maintained the SOC level over this period. Removal of residues for fuel, and this may cause lower CO2 emissions than using fossil fuels for generation of electricity, may have negative impacts on soil properties and soil quality. This information is important to scientists, land managers, and people managing energy sources.
Technical Abstract: Agricultural systems are important for world ecosystems. They can be managed to moderate CO2 emissions. World soils can be both a sink and source of atmospheric CO2, but it is a slow process. Data from long-term soil management experiments are needed to assess soil carbon (C) sink capacity through a complete life cycle analysis of direct and hidden C changes. Eight commonly used agricultural systems in northern Appalachia (Ohio, USA) were tested after 38 yr to assess the magnitude of the soil C pool. , Only a forest ecosystem and a no-tillage corn (Zea mays L.) crop plus manure increased soil organic carbon (SOC) by 37.3 and 33.3 Mg C ha–1, respectively; meanwhile monoculture corn and/or no-tillage practices maintained the SOC level over the period. Thus, most of North Appalachian agriculture, with current practices, does not contribute to C sequestration. Improved agricultural practices for no-tillage continuous corn should include cultivars with higher residue production (above- and belowground) and slower decomposition rates in order to increase SOC sequestration.