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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2018-35
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Original research article 10 Oct 2018

Original research article | 10 Oct 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal SOIL (SOIL).

Organic carbon content in arable soil – aeration matters

Tino Colombi1,2,*, Florian Walder2,*, Lucie Büchi3,4, Marlies Sommer2, Kexing Liu2,5, Johan Six6, Marcel G. A. van der Heijden2,7,8, Raphaël Charles3,9, and Thomas Keller1,2 Tino Colombi et al.
  • 1Department of Soil and Environment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, 11824, Sweden
  • 2Department of Agroecology and Environment, Agroscope, Zurich, 8046, Switzerland
  • 3Department of Plant Production Systems, Agroscope, Nyon, 1260, Switzerland
  • 4Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, Chatham Maritime, ME4 4TB, UK
  • 5College of Natural Resources and Environment, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, 510640, China
  • 6Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, 8092, Switzerland
  • 7Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, 8092, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 8Plant-Microbe Interactions, Faculty of Science, Institute of Environmental Biology, Utrecht University, 3584, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 9Department of Extension, Training and Communication, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL, 1001, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • *These authors contributed equally.

Abstract. Arable soils may act as a sink in the global carbon cycle but the prediction of their potential for carbon sequestration remains challenging. The role of soil structure and related physical properties for carbon sequestration is only little explored, especially at the farm level. We hypothesized that improved soil aeration, which is strongly controlled by soil structure, leads to higher soil organic carbon content. Soil gas transport properties, water holding capacity, microbial biomass and soil organic carbon content, were quantified in the topsoil and subsoil in 30 fields of individual farms. The fields were managed either conventionally, organically or according to no-till practice. Tillage significantly increased gas transport capability and water holding capacity of the topsoil. In the same soil layer, organic farming resulted in higher soil organic carbon content and microbial biomass. Both in the topsoil and the subsoil higher gas transport capability and water holding capacity led to increased soil organic carbon content (0.53<R2<0.71). In turn, increased organic carbon content improved soil physical conditions. We therefore propose a positive feedback cycle between soil structure and related physical properties like gas transport properties and water holding capacity, root growth, organic matter input and soil organic carbon content. Additionally, higher gas transport capability also increased microbial biomass in the topsoil (0.50<R2<0.57), underscoring the crucial role of soil aeration for soil carbon cycling. Our findings demonstrate the importance of soil aeration for carbon storage in soil and thus highlight the need to consider aeration in the evaluation of carbon sequestration strategies in cropping systems.

Tino Colombi et al.
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The role of soil aeration for carbon sequestration in arable soils is only little explored, especially at the farm level. In the current study, which was conducted on 30 fields that belong to individual farms, we show that well aerated soil contains higher soil organic carbon content than soil that is poorly aerated. We therefore conclude that soil aeration needs to be accounted for when developing strategies for carbon sequestration in arable soils.
The role of soil aeration for carbon sequestration in arable soils is only little explored,...
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