Nitrous Oxide Emissions Respond Differently to No-Till Depending on the Soil Type
Authors report that within the first 5 yr of adopting a no-tillage practice in a heavy clay soil, nitrous oxide emissions could offset the soil carbon dioxide sink.MADISON, WI, October 20, 2008--The practice of no-till has increased considerably during the past 20 yr. The absence of tillage coupled with the accumulation of crop residues at the soil surface modifies several soil properties but also influence nitrogen dynamics. Soils under no-till usually host a more abundant and diverse biota and are less prone to erosion, water loss, and structural breakdown than tilled soils. Their organic matter content is also often increased. In addition, no-till is proposed as a measure to mitigate the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. To assess the net effect of no-till on greenhouse gas emissions, other gases also have to be examined. Researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (Québec City) investigated the short-term impacts of no-till on soil nitrous oxide emissions. They compared emissions of nitrous oxide as well as nitrogen contents and physical properties between moldboard plowed (early fall) and no-till soils near Québec City, Canada. Measurements were made during three growing seasons in a poorly drained clay and a well-drained loamy soil cropped to barley. The results of the study were reported in the 2008 September-October issue of the Soil Science Society of America Journal.The authors concluded that their investigation indicates “that no-till can result in incremental nitrous oxide emissions that can more than offset the soil carbon dioxide sink during the first 5 yr after adoption of this soil conservation practice in a heavy clay soil…. Consequently, the potential of no-till for decreasing net greenhouse gas emissions may be limited in fine-textured soils that are prone to high water content and reduced aeration”.
in the response of nitrous oxide emissions when converting to a no-till
practice between the clay and loam soils were striking. While emissions
were similar in both tillage treatments in the well-aerated loam, they
more than doubled under no-till in the clay soil. Differences in
emissions between tillage practices in the clay soil were observed in
spring and summer but were greater and more consistent in the fall
after plowing operations. The influence of plowing on nitrous oxide
flux in the heavy clay soil was likely the result of increased soil
porosity that maintained soil aeration and water content at levels
restricting denitrification and nitrous oxide production. Accordingly,
denitrification rates are usually increased in denser and wetter
no-till soils and the anticipated benefits of the adoption of soil
conservation practices on net soil-surface greenhouse gas emissions
could be offset by increases in nitrous oxide emissions.
News release courtesy of Soil Science Society of America (SSSA).
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