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Soil Organic Carbon Sequestration by Tillage and Crop Rotation: A Global Data Analysis

DOI: 10.3334/CDIAC/tcm.002

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Soil Science Society of America Journal 66:1930-1946 (2002)

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Tristram O. West and Wilfred M. Post
DOE Center for Carbon Sequestration in Terrestrial Ecosystems (CSiTE)
Environmental Sciences Division
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
P.O. Box 2008
Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6290 U.S.A.

Sponsor: U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research Program

Abstract

Global mapChanges in agricultural management can potentially increase the accumulation rate of soil organic carbon (SOC), thereby sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere. This study was conducted to quantify potential soil carbon (C) sequestration rates for different crops in response to decreasing tillage intensity or enhancing rotation complexity, and to estimate the duration of time over which sequestration may occur. Analyses of C sequestration rates were completed using a global database of 67 long-term agricultural experiments, consisting of 276 paired treatments. Results indicate, on average, that a change from conventional tillage (CT) to no-till (NT) can sequester 57 ± 14 g C m–2 yr–1, excluding wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)-fallow systems which may not result in SOC accumulation with a change from CT to NT. Enhancing rotation complexity can sequester an average 14 ± 11 g C m–2 yr–1, excluding a change from continuous corn (Zea mays L.) to corn-soybean (Glycine max L.) which may not result in a significant accumulation of SOC. Carbon sequestration rates, with a change from CT to NT, can be expected to peak in 5-10 yr with SOC reaching a new equilibrium in 15-20 yr. Following initiation of an enhancement in rotation complexity, SOC may reach a new equilibrium in approximately 40-60 yr. Carbon sequestration rates, estimated for a number of individual crops and crop rotations in this study, can be used in spatial modeling analyses to more accurately predict regional, national, and global C sequestration potentials.

A summary of agricultural experiments used in this study is available as a Web page, a PDF file, a comma-delimited ASCII file and an Excel spreadsheet.

The full data base is available in the following formats:

and site descriptions are available in the following formats:

Note: Site ID in first column of the full data base files corresponds to Site ID in first column of the site description files, which provide additional details regarding the sites.

rmc 09/2002