Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Will Large Amounts Of Soil Carbon Be Released If Grasslands Are Converted To Energy Crops?

Date:
February 26, 2009
Source:
American Society of Agronomy
Summary:
A recent study analyzed whether or not soils that were converted from perennial grasses to the production of bioenergy grain crops would experience loss of soil organic carbon. The researchers found the best method to keep this carbon sequestered is through no-till production.

Grasslands in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in the United States may be increasingly converted to growing bioenergy grain crops. Questions abound regarding the fate of carbon sequestered in the soil during the CRP program by perennial grasses if the land is converted to grain crop production and the potential effectiveness of no-till production systems to conserve the sequestered soil organic carbon (SOC). The effect of no-till conversion of land that had been in smooth bromegrass for 13 years to no-till corn production on soil organic carbon in eastern Nebraska was observed for 6 years by USDA scientists.

The bromegrass was killed with herbicides in late fall of 1998 and corn was planted directly into the killed sod in the spring of 1999. No plowing or cultivation was conducted during the entire period of the study. Weeds were controlled with herbicides. Soil samples were collected at three different depths at the beginning and several times during the study and were analyzed for soil organic carbon. Carbon isotope ratio analyses made it possible to determine the amount of soil organic carbon that originated from bromegrass or corn.

The results of this study were reported at the October 5th to 9th meeting of the Soil Science Society of America in Houston, TX, and are published in the March-April 2009 issue of Agronomy Journal.

During the 6 years of the study, the origin of the soil carbon in the two upper soil layers (0- to 5-, and 5- to 10-cm depths) changed with the soil carbon from bromegrass gradually replaced by that from corn. Total soil organic carbon, however, did not change significantly at any depth during the 6 years of the study. There was no loss of sequestered soil carbon during 6 years of continuous no-till corn production.

Ronald Follett, who led this study, states, “If Conservation Reserve Program grasslands are converted to grain crop production, data from this study strongly supports the use of no-till farming practices. The use of no-till was observed to conserve both previously sequestered SOC while also enhancing sequestration of SOC by the bioenergy crops.”

Coauthors Gary Varvel and Ken Vogel indicate that no-till conversion of CRP grasslands into grain crops or perennial biomass crops such as switchgrass is significantly less expensive than using extensive tillage including plowing. No-till conversion of grasslands is feasible because of effective herbicides and improved no-till planting equipment that has been developed. In addition, associated and effective management procedures for no-till conversion of grasslands have been developed and validated.

There are modeling studies reported in the literature that indicate massive amounts of soil carbon will be released to the atmosphere if grasslands such as the CRP grasslands are converted to energy crops and that these releases would then negate the greenhouse gas benefits of the energy crops. These modeling studies are based on the assumption that the grasslands will be plowed followed by extensive tillage to prepare seed beds for the following crops. This study demonstrates that such predicted negative outcomes are likely erroneous.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Society of Agronomy. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Follett et al. No-Till Corn after Bromegrass: Effect on Soil Carbon and Soil Aggregates. Agronomy Journal, 2009; 101 (2): 261 DOI: 10.2134/agronj2008.0107

Cite This Page:

American Society of Agronomy. "Will Large Amounts Of Soil Carbon Be Released If Grasslands Are Converted To Energy Crops?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090217104433.htm>.
American Society of Agronomy. (2009, February 26). Will Large Amounts Of Soil Carbon Be Released If Grasslands Are Converted To Energy Crops?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090217104433.htm
American Society of Agronomy. "Will Large Amounts Of Soil Carbon Be Released If Grasslands Are Converted To Energy Crops?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090217104433.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, spiders that live in cities are bigger, fatter and multiply faster. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle

Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) — South Koreans eat more instant ramen noodles per capita than anywhere else in the world. But American researchers say eating too much may increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins