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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract - Soil & Water Management & Conservation

Carbon, Nitrogen, and Greenhouse Gas Balances in an 18-Year Cropping System Study on the Northern Great Plains


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 75 No. 4, p. 1493-1502
    Received: Aug 30, 2010

    * Corresponding author(s): ericbremer@shaw.ca
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  1. E. Bremer *a,
  2. H. H. Janzenb,
  3. B. H. Ellertb and
  4. R. H. McKenziec
  1. a Symbio Ag ConsultingLethbridge, ABCanada T1K 2B5
    b Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Lethbridge, AB Canada, T1J 4B1
    c Agriculture and Rural Development Lethbridge, ABCanada, T1J 4C7


Agroecosystems provide a range of benefits that are strongly influenced by cropping practice. Crop productivity and C, N, and greenhouse gas (GHG) balances were evaluated in an 18-yr cropping system study on an Aridic Haplustoll in the northern Great Plains. Application of synthetic fertilizers consistently increased crop yield and soil organic carbon (SOC), with greatest impact in perennial grass and continuous wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) rotations and least impact in rotations with fallow or annual legumes. Based on N balance, N inputs other than fertilizer were 16 to 30 kg N ha−1 yr−1 in rotations without legumes and 62 kg N ha−1 yr−1 in a legume-wheat (LW) rotation, while losses of synthetic fertilizer N were 32% in annual crop rotations and 3% in perennial grass. Due to large gains in SOC, perennial grass reduced atmospheric GHG by 20 to 29 Mg CO2 equivalent (eq.) ha−1 during the 18 yr of this study. For annual crop rotations, seed yield ranged from 1.2 to 2.5 Mg ha−1 yr−1, protein yield from 0.20 to 0.41 Mg ha−1 yr−1, and GHG intensity from 0 to 0.5 Mg CO2 eq. Mg−1 seed. Fertilized continuous wheat had the highest crop productivity and lowest net GHG intensity, while an annual LW rotation had the highest protein productivity and among the lowest GHG intensities (0.2 Mg CO2 eq. Mg−1 seed). Further evaluation at broader temporal and spatial scales is necessary to account for future changes in SOC and differences in use of crop products.

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