Effect of cultivation, tillage practice, and fertilization on total organic carbon, light fraction, and microbial biomass carbon in soils from the Loess Plateau of China and the Canadian prairies
Three soils: Huangmian, Huihe, Heilu soil, from the Loess Plateau and one soil: Orthic Brown Chernozem, from the Canadian Prairies, were used to evaluate the effect of cultivation time, tillage system and fertilization, on total soil organic carbon (SOC), light fraction (LF), and microbial biomass carbon (MB-C). Upon cultivation, Huangmian soil lost 77% of total organic carbon within 5 years (0-20 cm), at a decrease rate of 2.15 tonnes C ha-1 yr-1. The Huihe soil lost 70% of total organic carbon at rate of 0.96-1.06 tonnes C ha-1 yr—1 over 42 years (0-20 cm). Comparably, the Orthic Brown Chernozem lost 11% and 44% of the total soil organic carbon mass (0-20 cm), after 40 and 80 years of cultivation respectively, at a corresponding rate of 0.17 tonnes C ha-1 yr-1 and 0.45 tonnes C ha-1 yr-1. Water erosion for the Huangmian and Huihe soil, and wind erosion for the Brown Chernozem during 1930’s, are the main reasons for organic carbon decline. The light fraction of organic carbon (LFOC) decreased more rapidly than total organic carbon: LFOC decreased by 73% and 90% for the Huangmian and Huihe soil for the corresponding period, and decreased by 70% and 74% for Brown Chernozem brought under cultivated 40 and 80 years ago respectively. The change of microbial biomass carbon (MB-C) showed same trend as total organic carbon and LFOC. On the Heilu soil, a 29% decrease of SOC, which was comparable to average 22% decline of SOC during about hundred years of cultivation on the Prairie, was observed after thousands of years of cultivation relative to native sod. Some management practices had a positive effect on restoring and maintaining soil organic carbon. On the Orthic Brown Chernozem, dry matter of light fraction in 0-5 cm was increased after no-tillage was practiced for 7 years. As well, LFOC in 0-5 cm was increased significantly after switching from cereal-fallow to continuous cropping for 10 years. Growing alfalfa for 10 years after 60 years cereal-fallow increased total organic carbon by 80% and 27% in 0-5 cm and 5-10 cm depths respectively, while dry matter of LF and LFOC were increased by 54% and 194%, and 245% and 286% in 0-5 cm and 5-10 cm respectively. Application of manure alone and manure plus chemical fertilizer was found to restore total organic carbon, LFOC, and MB-C in the Heilu soil.
soil organic matter
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