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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Fayetteville, Arkansas » Poultry Production and Product Safety Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #385754

Research Project: Quantifying Air and Water Quality Benefits of Improved Poultry Manure Management Practices

Location: Poultry Production and Product Safety Research

Title: An evaluation of carbon indicators of soil health in long-term agricultural experiments

item LIPTZIN, DANIEL - Soil Health Institute
item NORRIS, CHARLOTTE - Soil Health Institute
item CAPPELLAZZI, SHANNON - Soil Health Institute
item BEAN, G - Soil Health Institute
item COPE, MICHAEL - Soil Health Institute
item GREUB, KELSEY - Soil Health Institute
item RIEKE, ELIZABETH - Soil Health Institute
item TRACY, PAUL - Soil Health Institute
item ABERLE, EZRA - North Dakota State University
item Ashworth, Amanda
item Baumhardt, Roland - Louis
item Dell, Curtis
item Derner, Justin
item Ducey, Thomas
item Novak, Jeffrey
item Dungan, Robert - Rob
item Fortuna, Ann Marie
item Kautz, Mark
item Kitchen, Newell
item Leytem, April
item Liebig, Mark
item Moore, Philip
item Osborne, Shannon
item Owens, Phillip
item Sainju, Upendra
item Sherrod, Lucretia
item Watts, Dexter

Submitted to: Soil Biology and Biochemistry
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/23/2022
Publication Date: 6/15/2022
Citation: Liptzin, D., Norris, C.E., Cappellazzi, S.B., Bean, G.M., Cope, M., Greub, K.L., Rieke, E.L., Tracy, P.W., Aberle, E., Ashworth, A.J., Baumhardt, R.L., Dell, C.J., Derner, J.D., Ducey, T.F., Novak, J.M., Dungan, R.S., Fortuna, A., Kautz, M.A., Kitchen, N.R., Leytem, A.B., Liebig, M.A., Moore Jr., P.A., Osborne, S.L., Owens, P.R., Sainju, U.M., Sherrod, L.A., Watts, D.B. 2022. An evaluation of carbon indicators of soil health in long-term agricultural experiments. Soil Biology and Biochemistry. 172. Article 108708.

Interpretive Summary: Soil health is gaining global attention as have practices that improve soil quality. A variety of terms (e.g. soil tilth, quality, etc.) and conditions have been used over the last century to describe a soil's health, however, a central focus of all of them is a soils carbon stocks. Although, little is known about the different forms of soil carbon and how they are changed by various best management practices (crop rotations, cover crop, organic inputs, rotational grazing, type and timing of tillage, and irrigation), as well as by conditions that cannot be controlled such as a soil's inherent properties (clay, silt, sand) and local climatic conditions (precipitation and temperature). Researchers therefore set out to evaluate soil carbon indicators in long-term experiments throughout North America in order to examine the continental-scale drivers of soil carbon and the effects of soil health practices on carbon. This study found that, throughout North America, carbon indicators were all greater at sites with lower-temperatures, increased precipitation, and soils with greater clay content. Forms of soil carbon were greater under decreased tillage, cover crops, organic amendments (e.g. animal manures), and residue retention, but not under greater crop rotations. Overall, these results provide insight into how management and environmental conditions drive soil carbon for helping combat climate change and improve a soil's capacity to cycle nutrients and improve food production.

Technical Abstract: Soil organic carbon (SOC) is integral to soil health. However, there are other indicators (e.g. potential C mineralization, permanganate oxidizable C, water extractable organic C and 'beta-glucosidase enzyme activity) may provide additional information about C dynamics and microbial activity. We used a subset of indicators from the North American Project to Evaluate Soil Health Measurements to examine the continental scale drivers of these indicators, the relationships among the indicators, and the effects of soil health practices on the indicators. All the indicators had greater values at lower temperatures, and most were greater with increased precipitation and greater clay content. The indicators were strongly correlated across sites, with the strongest relationship between SOC and permanganate oxidizable C. The indicators responded to decreasing tillage, inclusion of cover crops in a rotation, application of organic nutrients, and retention of residue, but not the number of crops in a rotation. The effect of decreased tillage on the C indicators was generally greater at sites with higher precipitation. The magnitude and direction of the management response was generally consistent within a site for all the indicators. The indicators other than SOC all have methodological issues that can hinder a universal interpretation of their magnitude. However, given that the indicators generally respond in similar ways to inherent site characteristics and management, they all could be used as soil health indicators. Balancing the cost, sensitivity, interpretability, and availability at the commercial labs, a 24hr potential C mineralization assay could provide the most benefit to measure in conjunction with SOC, but measuring multiple indicators can provide additional confidence about C dynamics.