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Effects of Conservation Tillage on Total and Aggregated Soil Organic Carbon in the Andes

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DOI: 10.4236/ojss.2013.38042    6,128 Downloads   8,474 Views   Citations

ABSTRACT

Many Andisols of the Andes have been disturbed by traditional potato-based rotation agriculture disrupting soil structure, water retention capacity and organic matter content. This study was undertaken to investigate the contribution of conservation farming technology or reduced tillage in potato-based rotations in the Colombian Andes in order to rehabilitate total and aggregated soil organic C in disturbed organic matter-rich Andisols. Soils were sampled from farms with 7-year of reduced tillage and farms with conventional farming practices. Ultrasound energy was applied to samples to disrupt aggregation and total soil C was determined in order to investigate the amount of carbon held inside the aggregates of different soil size classes. Results indicated that reduced tillage in potato-based crop rotations increased the soil C concentration and average C content in the whole profile (≈117 cm depth) by 50 and 33% (1636 t C ha?1 vs. 1224 t C ha?1), respectively, as compared to conventional farming practices. Carbon content increased 177% in the subsoil (A2 horizon, 78 -117 cm depth, from 215 to 596 t?ha?1), although most of the soil C was in the A1 horizon (between 0 -78 cm average thickness, 1097 t?ha?1). These increases show that reduced tillage enhances C stores in Andisols which are already high in organic matter. In addition, C in aggregates represented more than 80% of the total organic matter and it was positively affected by conservation practices. The C increase was preferential in the smaller macroaggregates (<2 mm). The aggregate dispersion energy curves further suggested that C increase was occurring in microaggregates within the smaller macroaggregate fraction. Data suggested that smaller macroaggregates can be used in these soils to evaluate the influence of field management practices on soil C sequestration.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

M. Quintero and N. Comerford, "Effects of Conservation Tillage on Total and Aggregated Soil Organic Carbon in the Andes," Open Journal of Soil Science, Vol. 3 No. 8, 2013, pp. 361-373. doi: 10.4236/ojss.2013.38042.

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