Information is needed on novel management practices to increase dryland C sequestration and soil quality in the northern Great Plains, USA. We evaluated the effects of tillage, crop rotation, and cultural practice on dryland crop biomass (stems and leaves) yield, surface residue, and soil C fractions at the 0-20 cm depth from 2004 to 2008 in a Williams loam in eastern Montana, USA. Treatments were two tillage (no-tillage [NT] and conventional tillage [CT]), two crop rotations (continuous spring wheat [Triticum aestivum L.] [CW] and spring wheat-barley [Hordeum vulgaris L.] hay-corn [Zea mays L.]-pea [Pisum sativum L.] [W-B-C-P]), and two cultural practices (regular [conventional seed rates and plant spacing, conventional planting date, broadcast N fertilization, and reduced stubble height] and ecological [variable seed rates and plant spacing, delayed planting, banded N fertilization, and increased stubble height]). Carbon fractions were soil organic C (SOC), particulate organic C (POC), microbial biomass C (MBC), and potential C mineralization (PCM). Crop biomass was 24% to 39% greater in W-B-C-P than in CW in 2004 and 2005. Surface residue C was 36% greater in NT than in CT in the regular practice. At 5 - 20 cm, SOC was 14% greater in NT with W-B-C-P and the regular practice than in CT with CW and the ecological practice. In 2007, POC and PCM at 0 - 20 cm were 23 to 54% greater in NT with CW or the regular practice than in CT with CW or the ecological practice. Similarly, MBC at 10 - 20 cm was 70% greater with the regular than with the ecological practice in NT with CW. Surface residue, PCM, and MBC declined from autumn 2007 to spring 2008. No-tillage with the regular cultural practice increased surface residue and soil C storage and microbial biomass and activity compared to conventional tillage with the ecological practice. Mineralization reduced surface residue and soil labile C fractions from autumn to spring.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/andrew_lenssen/41/