Ecosystem dynamics of crop‐pasture rotations in a fifty‐year field experiment in Southern South America: Century model and field results.

Baethgen, Walter E.; Parton, William J.; Rubio, Valentina; Kelly, Robin H.; Lutz, Susan M.

The Century model was used to simulate soil C and N cycling and crop produc- tion dynamics in an ongoing field experiment in Uruguay (started in 1963). The model was calibrated using observed data from three treatments (crop or crop–pasture rotations) and validated with a fourth treatment. The model correctly predicted the impact of different treatments on microbial biomass, N mineralization, soil respi- ration, and crop yields. The model and observed data show that soil respiration, N mineralization, soil C, and crop yields increase with increasing plant-derived C inputs caused by increasing the frequency of pastures in the rotations. This is one of the first papers that show the strong positive correlation of observed soil C with plant C soil inputs to field-observed microbial biomass, soil respiration, and N mineralization. The results also showed that reducing tillage and transitioning to a no-till system increased soil C and reduced soil erosion. The main path of soil C losses was het- erotrophic microbial respiration, which accounted for 66% of the total C lost in a continuous crop rotation and no fertilizers, 71% in a continuous crop rotation with fertilizers, and 86% in a crop–pasture rotation with fertilizers. Model results from a degraded cropping system showed that adding grass–clover (Trifolium spp.) pastures greatly increased plant production and soil C, whereas reducing the frequency of grass–clover pastures in high-fertility cropping systems from 50% of the time to 25% reduces crop yields and soil C. Including cover crops substantially increases crop production and maintains soil C in high-fertility and degraded cropping systems.

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Soil Science Society of America Journal

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International Research Institute for Climate and Society
Published Here
May 5, 2021