Research Article: Conservation tillage increases carbon sequestration of winter wheat-summer maize farmland on Loess Plateau in China

Date Published: September 5, 2018

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Xingli Lu, Xingneng Lu, Yuncheng Liao, Dafeng Hui.

http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0199846

Abstract

The idea of mitigating anthropogenic CO2 emissions by increasing soil organic carbon (SOC) is notable. However, the estimation of the net ecosystem carbon balance after conversion from conventional tillage to conservational tillage has been poorly quantified for the Loess Plateau in China. A 2-year field experiment was conducted to estimate the agroecosystem carbon balance of a winter wheat–summer maize rotation system using a full carbon cycle analysis. The results showed that a positive net ecosystem carbon balance value in the cases of rotary tillage with straw incorporation, chisel plow tillage with straw incorporation, and no tillage with straw mulching treatments. Note that a negative value was detected for the conventional moldboard plowing tillage without crop straw treatment. The conversion from conventional tillage to conservational tillage substantially enhanced the carbon sink potential from 0.84 t C ha−1 yr−1 to 2.69 t C ha−1 yr−1 in both years. Our findings suggest that the expansion of conservational tillage could enhance the potential carbon sink of the rain-fed land in China.

Partial Text

Agriculture accounts for approximately 10.0%–12.0% of the total global anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) [1]. The direct emission of CO2 included soil respiration or indirect emission of CO2 induced by the production of agriculture inputs (fertilizers and pesticides), fuel combustion, and application of machinery on the farm that is increasing year on year [2]. The winter wheat–summer maize rotation system under a rain-fed condition is one of the major grain productions in North China [3]. Therefore, it is important to study carbon balance in rain-fed fields to select appropriate tillage methods to develop low-carbon agriculture and promote the development of sustainable agriculture.

Our results showed that heterotrophic (microbial) respiration was lower in the NTS treatment than in other three tillage treatments. In the case of the CT treatment in the winter wheat–summer maize field on China’s Loess Plateau, carbon added as the aboveground biomass and root biomass was not sufficient to compensate for the loss of carbon from organic matter decomposition, rendering the rain-fed winter wheat–summer maize field as the net sources of atmospheric CO2. The conversion from conventional tillage to conservational tillage substantially enhanced the carbon sink potential from 0.84 t C ha−1 yr−1 in RTS to 2.69 t C ha−1 yr−1 in the NTS treatment. Thus, the expansion of conservational tillage could enhance the potential carbon sink of rain-fed land in China’s Loess Plateau. Our results also showed the importance of the returning of crop straw to the field in order to change the winter wheat–summer maize ecosystem from carbon source to sink.

 

Source:

http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0199846