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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 #398178

Research Project: Managing Energy and Carbon Fluxes to Optimize Agroecosystem Productivity and Resilience

Location: Soil, Water & Air Resources Research

Title: Eastern red cedar effects on carbon sequestration and soil quality in the Great Plains

item Sauer, Thomas
item Wacha, Kenneth - Ken
item BREVIK, ERIC - Southern Illinois University
item ZAMORA, DIOMY - University Of Minnesota

Submitted to: Soil Science Society of America Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/26/2023
Publication Date: 2/27/2023
Citation: Sauer, T.J., Wacha, K.M., Brevik, E.C., Zamora, D. 2023. Eastern red cedar effects on carbon sequestration and soil quality in the Great Plains. Soil Science Society of America Journal.

Interpretive Summary: Changing land cover by planting trees into grasslands or crop fields will affect soil properties. In this study, we measured changes in soil quality beneath trees of one species (eastern red cedar) at nine different locations in the U.S. Great Plains with varying soil properties and climates. The soils beneath the trees had generally improved quality as compared to soils in the adjacent fields. These improvements included increased organic matter, better infiltration of rain water, and better soil structure that allows roots to penetrated deeper in the soil. Tree growth and soil organic matter content were strongly influenced by annual rainfall so sites with higher rainfall had faster tree growth and more soil organic matter. This study is of interest to landowners or scientists who are interested in growing eastern red cedar trees for a variety of purposes including as windbreaks, for bioenergy production, to store carbon, or to improve soil quality on land with marginal crop production potential.

Technical Abstract: Eastern red cedar (ERC, Juniperus virginiana L.) is a common tree species for windbreak plantings and has great potential for bioenergy production due to physical and chemical characteristics of its biomass. The objective of this study was to assess the sustainability of ERC plantings for bioenergy feedstock production by evaluating soil quality parameters in existing plantings across the northern U.S. Great Plains. Nine sites were selected in five states with mean annual precipitation (MAP) from 425 to 970 mm and mean annual temperature (MAT) from 4.9 to 9.9 °C. Infiltration was measured using the twin ring technique at nine locations in each tree planting and adjacent field (crop, pasture, or hay) at each site. Following infiltration measurements, a 4.8 cm.-diameter soil core to 30 cm. depth was collected from inside one infiltration ring of each pair for bulk density, texture, pH, aggregate stability, soil organic carbon (SOC), and nitrogen (N) analyses. Penetration resistance in 2.5 cm increments to 30 cm. depth was measured in the other infiltration ring. Infiltration rate and depth to 2 MPa penetration resistance averaged 55% and 20.3% greater, respectively, under tree cover. Estimated tree aboveground biomass C and SOC were both strongly correlated with MAP. SOC stocks under tree cover averaged 16.8% greater than in the adjacent land use. Potential ERC planting for bioenergy feedstock production is likely to improve soil physical and chemical quality, especially for soils with marginal crop production potential.