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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 15, issue 17 | Copyright
Biogeosciences, 15, 5377-5393, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-15-5377-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 06 Sep 2018

Research article | 06 Sep 2018

Integrated management of a Swiss cropland is not sufficient to preserve its soil carbon pool in the long term

Carmen Emmel1, Annina Winkler1, Lukas Hörtnagl1, Andrew Revill1,2, Christof Ammann3, Petra D'Odorico1,4, Nina Buchmann1, and Werner Eugster1 Carmen Emmel et al.
  • 1ETH Zurich, Department of Environmental Systems Science, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  • 3Agroscope, Federal Research Station, Climate and Agriculture, 8046 Zurich, Switzerland
  • 4Department of Biology, University of Toronto at Mississauga, Mississauga, ON, L5L 1C6, Canada

Abstract. Croplands are involved in the exchange of carbon dioxide (CO2) between the atmosphere and the biosphere. Furthermore, soil carbon (C) stocks play an important role in soil fertility. It is thus of great interest to know whether intensively managed croplands act as a net source or sink of atmospheric CO2 and if soil C stocks are preserved over long timescales. The FluxNet site CH-Oe2 in Oensingen, Switzerland, has been operational since the end of 2003. This cropland is managed under the Swiss framework of the Proof of Ecological Performance (PEP, a variant of integrated management) with a crop rotation centred on winter wheat, which also includes winter barley, winter rapeseed, peas, potato and intermediate cover crops. In addition to eddy covariance measurements, meteorological and soil measurements were available along with information on C imports and exports from organic fertilisation, sowing and harvesting. This study investigates cropland C budgets over 13 years and assesses whether the PEP regulations resulted in a balanced C budget. The strongest CO2 uptake was observed during cereal seasons. C export through harvest, however, offset the strong uptake of the cereal crops. The largest net CO2 emissions to the atmosphere were observed during pea and cover crop seasons. Net biome production, representing the overall C budget (assuming carbon leaching to groundwater to be negligible), typically ranged between close to C neutral to C losses of up to 407gCm−2 per season, with peas being the largest source. Overall, the field lost 1674gCm−2 over 13 years (129gCm−2yr−1), which was confirmed by soil C stock measurements at the beginning and the end of the study period. Although managing the field under the regulations of PEP did not result in an overall C sink, model simulations showed that the use of cover crops reduced the C losses compared to leaving the field bare. The use of solid manure improved the C budget by importing substantial amounts of C into the soil, while liquid manure had only a small effect. We thus conclude that additional efforts are needed to bring Swiss management practices closer to the goal of preserving soil C in the long term.

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It is of great interest to know whether croplands act as a net source or sink of atmospheric CO2 and if soil carbon (C) stocks are preserved over long timescales due to the role of C in soil fertility. For a cropland in Switzerland it was found that managing the field under the Swiss framework of the Proof of Ecological Performance (PEP) resulted in soil C losses of 18.0 %. Additional efforts are needed to bring Swiss management practices closer to the goal of preserving soil C in the long term.
It is of great interest to know whether croplands act as a net source or sink of atmospheric CO2...
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