Soil carbon dynamics under different cropping and pasture management in temperate Australia: Results of three long-term experiments

Kwong Yin Chan, Mark Conyers, Guangdi Li, Keith Helyar, Graeme Poile, Albert Oates, Idris Barchia

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122 Citations (Scopus)


(0'0.3 m). Our results suggest that pasture holds the key to maintaining, and even increasing, SOC under crop/pasture in this environment. In addition to its important influence on soil quality and therefore crop productivity, soil organic carbon (SOC) has also been identified as a possible C sink for sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide. Limited data are available on the impact of management practices on the rate of SOC change in agricultural soils in Australia. In this paper, results of three long-term trials (13'25 years) located near Wagga Wagga in temperate Australia were used to assess C dynamics under different tillage and stubble management practices, and under cropping intensities in pasture/crop rotations. Experimental results confirm the importance of management practices and pasture in determining first the steady-state SOC concentrations that are characteristic of given rotations and crop management systems, and second the rates of change of SOC concentrations as they approach steady-state concentrations in agricultural soils of this agro-ecological zone. A long-term crop/pasture experiment at a site with initial high SOC showed that the rate of SOC change in different treatments ranged from '278 to +257 kg C/ha.year over 0'0.3 m soil depth. Under continuous cropping, even under conservation agriculture practices of no-tillage, stubble retention, and crop rotation, the high initial SOC stock (0'0.3 m) present after a long-term pasture phase was, at best, maintained but tended to decrease with increased tillage or stubble burning practices. The effect of tillage was greater than that of stubble management. Increases in SOC were observed only in rotations incorporating a pasture phase. Our results suggest that improved soil nutrient and grazing management of permanent pasture can lead to an increase of 500'700 kg C/ha.year where the initial SOC concentrations are well below steady-state concentrations that could be expected after long periods of improved management.No difference was found between perennial pasture and annual pasture to the depth measured
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)320-328
Number of pages9
JournalSoil Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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