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Environ Pollut. 2002;116(3):353-62.

Soil carbon dynamics in cropland and rangeland.

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  • 1School of Natural Resources, The Ohio State University, Columbus 43210, USA.


Most soils in the Midwestern USA have lost 30 to 50% of their original pool, or 25 to 40 Mg C/ha, upon conversion from natural to agricultural ecosystems. About 60 to 70% of the C thus depleted can be resequestered through adoption of recommended soil and crop management practices. These practices include conversion from plow till to no till, frequent use of winter cover crops in the rotation cycle, elimination of summer fallow, integrated nutrient management along with liberal use of biosolids and biological nitrogen fixation, precision farming to minimize losses and enhance fertilizer use efficiency, and use of improved varieties with ability to produce large root biomass with high content of lignin and suberin. The gross rate of soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration ranges from 500 to 800 kg/ha/year in cold and humid regions and 100 to 300 kg/ha/year in dry and warm regions. The rate of SOC sequestration can be measured with procedures that are cost effective and credible at soil pedon level, landscape level, regional or national scale. In addition to SOC, there is also a large potential to sequester soil inorganic carbon (SIC) in arid and semi-arid regions. Soil C sequestration has numerous ancillary benefits. It is truly a win-win situation: extremely cost-effective, and a bridge to the future until alternative energy options take effect.

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