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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 66 No. 6, p. 1930-1946
    Received: Oct 16, 2001

    * Corresponding author(s): westto@ornl.gov
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Soil Organic Carbon Sequestration Rates by Tillage and Crop Rotation

  1. Tristram O. West * and
  2. Wilfred M. Post
  1. Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Lab., P.O. Box 2008, Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6335


Changes in agricultural management can potentially increase the accumulation rate of soil organic C (SOC), thereby sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere. This study was conducted to quantify potential soil 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 20 ± 12 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 to 10 yr with SOC reaching a new equilibrium in 15 to 20 yr. Following initiation of an enhancement in rotation complexity, SOC may reach a new equilibrium in approximately 40 to 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.

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Copyright © 2002. Soil Science SocietyPublished in Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J.66:1930–1946.