Submitted to: USDA-ARS Research Notes
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/2/2009
Publication Date: 10/2/2009
Citation: Franzluebbers, A.J. 2009. Soil Organic Carbon Sequestration: What Happens after Pasture is Terminated?. JPC Research Note 21. 2009.
Technical Abstract: Pastures are a major land use throughout the southeastern USA. In fact there is almost as much pasture land (48 million acres) as crop land (64 million acres) in the region. Soil under pastures accumulates organic matter (composed mostly of carbon), because (a) soil is not disturbed, (b) forages often grow throughout the entire year to supply soil with carbon through roots and residues, and (c) cattle deposit carbon back onto the soil through manure. Soil organic carbon is an indicator or healthy soil (i.e. biologically active with worms, insects, and various microorganisms), but is also an important sink for sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and avoiding other greenhouse gas emissions. Converting pastures to cropland could preserve high soil organic carbon if pastures were to be terminated with spraying and crops managed with no tillage. Loss of soil organic carbon can be expected with plowing of pasture and managing crops with conventional tillage. Therefore, crop and cattle producers who adopt integrated crop-livestock systems are encouraged to utilize no tillage (or some form of conservation tillage) management to help retain soil organic carbon and build soil quality. This recommendation is applicable to small-, medium-, and large-sized farms throughout the southeastern USA.