The potential to increase soil carbon stocks through reduced tillage or organic material additions in England and Wales: a case study

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Powlson, D. S., Bhogal, A., Chambers, B. J., Coleman, K., Macdonald, A. J., Goulding, K. W. T. and Whitmore, A. P. 2012. The potential to increase soil carbon stocks through reduced tillage or organic material additions in England and Wales: a case study. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. 146, pp. 23-33.

AuthorsPowlson, D. S., Bhogal, A., Chambers, B. J., Coleman, K., Macdonald, A. J., Goulding, K. W. T. and Whitmore, A. P.
Abstract

Results from the UK were reviewed to quantify the impact on climate change mitigation of soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks as a result of (1) a change from conventional to less intensive tillage and (2) addition of organic materials including farm manures, digested biosolids, cereal straw, green manure and paper crumble. The average annual increase in SOC deriving from reduced tillage was 310 kg C ± 180 kg C ha−1 yr−1. Even this accumulation of C is unlikely to be achieved in the UK and northwest Europe because farmers practice rotational tillage. N2O emissions may increase under reduced tillage, counteracting increases in SOC. Addition of biosolids increased SOC (in kg C ha−1 yr−1 t−1 dry solids added) by on average 60 ± 20 (farm manures), 180 ± 24 (digested biosolids), 50 ± 15 (cereal straw), 60 ± 10 (green compost) and an estimated 60 (paper crumble). SOC accumulation declines in long-term experiments (>50 yr) with farm manure applications as a new equilibrium is approached. Biosolids are typically already applied to soil, so increases in SOC cannot be regarded as mitigation. Large increases in SOC were deduced for paper crumble (>6 t C ha−1 yr−1) but outweighed by N2O emissions deriving from additional fertiliser. Compost offers genuine potential for mitigation because application replaces disposal to landfill; it also decreases N2O emission. 

Year of Publication2012
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems & Environment
Journal citation146, pp. 23-33
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1016/j.agee.2011.10.004
Open accessPublished as non-open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeSEF
BCC
The Rothamsted Long-Term Experiments including Sample Archive and e-RA database [2012-2017]
The 'Classical' experiments: Broadbalk and Park Grass [2001-2012]
Climate Change Critical Review
Modelling soil physical and biogeochemical processes
Modelling environmental change in relation to soil physical and biogeochemical processes
Publication dates
Online22 Nov 2011
Publication process dates
Accepted07 Oct 2011
PublisherElsevier
Copyright licensePublisher copyright

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