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No-tillage did not increase organic carbon storage but stimulated N2O emissions in an intensively cultivated sandy loam soil: a negative climateeffect

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-03, 21:04 authored by Yuhui Nui, Xanjiang Cai, Zengming Chen, Jiafa LuoJiafa Luo, Hong Di, Hongyan Yu, Anning Zhu, Weixin Ding
Although numerous studies have been conducted on the effects of no-tillage on carbon (C) sequestration in agricultural systems, there is still no consensus on the balance between the potential of C sequestration and nitrous oxide (N2O) or nitric oxide (NO) emissions. A no-tillage field experiment in the North China Plain was established in 2006 and the influence of no-tillage on N2O and NO emissions was monitored under an annual wheat-maize cropping system. The study included four treatments: no-tillage (NT) and conventional tillage (CT) soils amended with N fertilizer at a rate of 225 kg N ha–1 for wheat and 195 kg N ha–1 for maize (NTN and CTN) and without N fertilizer (NT0 and CT0). Three years of no-tillage significantly (p < 0.05) increased soil organic C (SOC) content by 12.2% in the 0–5 cm soil layer, possibly due to the surface aggregation of organic C derived from crop roots and exudates, but did not alter SOC pool in the 0–30 cm profile. Annual N2O emissions in the NT0 and CT0 treatments were 0.53 and 0.57 kg N2O-N ha–1, respectively, and were significantly (p < 0.05) increased to 0.96 kg N2O-N ha–1 in CTN and to 1.23 kg N2O-N ha–1 in NTN. Remarkable differences in N2O emissions between CTN and NTN were observed during the maize growing season. In contrast, NO emissions were not affected by the tillage regimes regardless of N fertilization. The mean ratios of NO/N2O fluxes in N-unfertilized plots were 0.26–0.29 and 1.79–2.11 for the maize and wheat season, respectively, indicating that both NO and N2O were primarily derived from denitrification during the maize growing season and from nitrification under wheat cultivation. Under N-fertilized plots, the ratios increased to 1.44–2.02 and 5.00–6.03 for the maize and wheat season, respectively, with significantly (p < 0.05) lower values in NTN plots than in CTN plots. The N2O emission factors for N applied in the wheat-maize rotation system were 0.16% and 0.09% for NTN and CTN, respectively, which was far lower than the IPCC Tier 1 default value (1.0%), primarily due to the absence of irrigation after fertilization in maize season and low temperature in wheat season. The results suggest that the 3-year no-tillage regime with residue removal did not substantially increase C storage in the 0–30 cm profile, but stimulated N2O emissions primarily by increasing denitrification.


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Journal title

Soil & Tillage Research




Nui, Y., Cai, X., Chen, Z., Luo, J., Di, H. J., Yu, H., … Ding, W. (2019). No-tillage did not increase organic carbon storage but stimulated N2O emissions in an intensively cultivated sandy loam soil: a negative climateeffect. Soil & Tillage Research, 195, 104419. doi:10.1016/j.still.2019.104419

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