|Agricultural activities contribute an annual increase in radiative forcing of about 20%. In southeastern US, use of cover crops in conservation tillage (CsT) has increased in recent years. However, data on soil C and N dynamics and subsequent trace gas emissions at the landscape scale are lacking. Objectives of this study were to evaluate effects of landscape and soil management on 1) methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) fluxes, 2) soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) mineralization and 3) cover crop decomposition and mineralization.
Gas fluxes, C and N mineralization, and cover crop decomposition were determined on a 9-ha field at the E.V. Smith Research Center near Shorter, in AL. This experiment consists of six replications of agroecosystem management [(corn (Zea mays L.)-cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L). rotation] that traverse the landscape. Soil managements included CsT, conventional tillage (CT), conservation tillage with dairy
manure (CsTM), and conventional tillage with dairy manure (CTM) treatments. The soil management treatments were within summit, sideslope and the drainageway landscape positions.
The drainageway landscape position emitted 46, 251, 59, and 185 mg CH4-C ha-1 h-1 from CT, CTM, CsT and CsTM treatments, respectively. The summit position was a CH4 consumer with CT and CsT treatments. Significant soil management treatment differences in N2O-N flux were observed only within the drainageway landscape position. Averaged across seasons, CT and CsT emitted similar N2O-N in the drainageway. Within the drainageway, dairy manure decreased N2O-N emission on CT treatments. Carbon dioxide emission in winter 2005 from CsT treatments (averaged across landscape positions) was 1304 g ha-1 h-1 CO2-C compared to 227 g ha-1 h-1 CO2-C from CT treatments.
CsT and CsTM treatments increased soil organic C and total soil N after six years. This resulted in higher C and N mineralization on soils from CsT and CsTM treatments, with no differences between landscape positions.
Potential C mineralization was similar for crimson clover, spring forage rape and white lupin amended soil while black oat amended soil immobilized N. Buried cover crops decomposed and mineralized faster than surface applied materials, with no differences in cover crop decomposition and mineralization k across landscape positions.
Overall, landscape variability had minimal effect on C and N dynamics and cover crop decomposition compared to soil management effects. Conservation tillage, dairy manure applications, and cover crops showed potential to sequester soil organic C and increase total soil N in these systems.