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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Soil, Water & Air Resources Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #301166

Title: Carbon and macronutrient loss during accelerated erosion under different tillage and residue management systems

item BENISTON, JOSHUA - The Ohio State University
item Shipitalo, Martin
item LAL, RATTAN - The Ohio State University
item DAYTON, ELIZABETH - The Ohio State University
item HOPKINS, DAVID - Heriot-Watt University
item JONES, FRANKLIN - The Ohio State University
item JOYNES, ADRIAN - Rothamsted Research
item DUNGAIT, JENNIFER - Rothamsted Research

Submitted to: European Journal of Soil Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/30/2014
Publication Date: 12/2/2014
Citation: Beniston, J., Shipitalo, M.J., Lal, R., Dayton, E.A., Hopkins, D.W., Jones, F., Joynes, A., Dungait, J.A. 2014. Carbon and macronutrient loss during accelerated erosion under different tillage and residue management systems. European Journal of Soil Science. 66:218-225.

Interpretive Summary: Tillage and the removal of crop residues can affect the susceptibility of soil to rainfall-induced surface runoff and erosion. Additionally, it can contribute to increased losses of fertilizer-derived nutrients in the runoff. These concerns are increased by harvesting of crop residues for bioenergy production. Our objective was to determine the impact of removing 0, 50, or 100% of the corn stalks for eight years from a long-term (42-year) no-till continuous corn field. These fields were subjected to a high intensity simulated rain of approximately 2.75 inches per hour in the spring just prior to planting. To investigate the effect of tillage we also applied simulated rain to a field that had been conventionally tilled for 28 years without residue harvest. Runoff was greatest when all the residue was removed from the long-term no-till field and was five times greater and soil loss was fourteen times greater than when all the residue was retained. Soil losses, however, were still two times greater from the conventionally tilled field that was not subject to residue removal than from the no-till soil with all the residue removed. The conventionally tilled soil also had the highest losses of total nitrogen and phosphorus. For this low organic matter soil crop residue removal at levels of 50% or more greatly reduced the ability of no-till to control runoff. These results will be beneficial to farmers in that they indicate that crop residue removal at these rates should be avoided for similar soils on sloping agricultural lands unless additional conservation practices are implemented. Furthermore, our results indicate that tillage of these soils, even when all the residue is retained, promotes soil and water degradation.

Technical Abstract: The effects of tillage and crop residue removal on erosion and associated macronutrient fluxes on erodible soils subjected to a high intensity simulated rain event (70 mm/h) were investigated in an experimental watershed in Ohio, USA. A set of plots which constitute two experiments at this site were used. One experiment had plots that had been under conventional tillage (CT) for 28 years, plots that had not been tilled (NT) for 42 years, and NT plots that had been tilled 24 h before the experiment was started (TNT). The second experiment had the same NT treatment as above, but additionally no-till plots from which either half (NT50) or all (NT0) of the surface plant residues had been removed annually for the past 8 years. The largest run-off occurred on the complete crop residue removal (NT0) plots (22.1 mm). Soil loss was greatest under long-term conventional tillage (CT) (2.7 Mg/ha). Tillage of the no-till (TNT) soil produced the largest sediment-bound fluxes of C (30.5 kg/ha) and N (2.9 kg/ ha). Sediment-bound P fluxes were largest in the CT soils (700 g/ha). Natural abundance d13C and d15 N values suggested enhanced loss of older organic matter in CT plots. In conclusion, in susceptible landscapes intense rainfall leads to significant losses of soil and organic C under long-term conventional tillage; crop residue removal increases losses of top soil and associated macronutrients from no-till plots; and, cultivation of long-term no-till plots causes rapid loss of soil and C.