Revista Brasileira de Ciência do Solo
Print version ISSN 0100-0683
ALVAREZ, Carina Rosa et al. Distribution and vertical stratification of carbon and nitrogen in soil under different managements in the pampean region of Argentina. Rev. Bras. Ciênc. Solo [online]. 2011, vol.35, n.6, pp. 1985-1994. ISSN 0100-0683. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0100-06832011000600015.
One of the expected benefits of no-tillage systems is a higher rate of soil C sequestration. However, higher C retention in soil is not always apparent when no-tillage is applied, due e.g., to substantial differences in soil type and initial C content. The main purpose of this study was to evaluate the potential of no-tillage management to increase the stock of total organic C in soils of the Pampas region in Argentina. Forty crop fields under no-tillage and conventional tillage systems and seven undisturbed soils were sampled. Total organic C, total N, their fractions and stratification ratios and the C storage capacity of the soils under different managements were assessed in samples to a depth of 30 cm, in three layers (0-5, 5-15 and 15-30 cm). The differences between the C pools of the undisturbed and cultivated soils were significant (p < 0.05) and most pronounced in the top (0-5 cm) soil layer, with more active C near the soil surface (undisturbed > no-tillage > conventional tillage). Based on the stratification ratio of the labile C pool (0-5/5-15 cm), the untilled were separated from conventionally tilled areas. Much of the variation in potentially mineralizable C was explained by this active C fraction (R2 = 0.61) and by total organic C (R2 = 0.67). No-till soils did not accumulate more organic C than conventionally tilled soils in the 0-30 cm layer, but there was substantial stratification of total and active C pools at no till sites. If the C stratification ratio is really an indicator of soil quality, then the C storage potential of no-tillage would be greater than in conventional tillage, at least in the surface layers. Particulate organic C and potentially mineralizable C may be useful to evaluate variations in topsoil organic matter.
Keywords : no-tillage; soil organic matter fractions; tillage systems; carbon stratification; C and N stocks.