The impact of altered management on long-term agricultural soil carbon stocks – a Swedish case study
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Land use in general and particularly agricultural practices can significantly influence soil carbon storage. In this paper, we investigate the long-term effects of management changes on soil carbon stock dynamics on a Swedish farm where C concentrations were measured in 1956 at 124 points in a regular grid. The soil was re-sampled at 65 points in 1984 and at all grid points in 2001. Before 1956 most of the fodder for dairy cattle was produced on the farm and crop rotations were dominated by perennial grass leys and spring cereals with manure addition. In 1956 all animals were sold; crop rotations were thereafter dominated by wheat, barley and rapeseed. Spatial variation in topsoil C concentration decreased significantly between 1956 and 2001. C stocks declined in fields with initially large C stocks but did not change significantly in fields with moderate C stocks. In the latter fields, soil C concentrations declined from 1956 to 1984, but increased slightly thereafter according to both measurements and simulations. Thus, the decline in C input due to the altered management in 1956 was partly compensated for by increasing crop yields and management changes, resulting in increased C input during the last 20 years. A soil carbon balance model (ICBM) was used to describe carbon dynamics during 45 years. Yield records were transformed to soil carbon input using allometric functions. Topsoil C concentrations ranging between 1.8 and 2.4% (depending on individual field properties) seemed to be in dynamic equilibrium with C input under recent farming and climatic conditions. Subsoil C concentrations seemed to be unaffected by the management changes.
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