Vertical distribution of root biomass and soil carbon stocks in forage cropping systems

Abstract

Background and aims. Forage cropping systems may differentially affect the vertical distribution of roots and soil organic C stock (C-OM). In annual crops sequences (ACS) and perennial pastures (PP), we assessed the association between root biomass, C-OM, C in mineral-associated organic matter (C-MAOM), and C in particulate organic matter (C-POM) and its vertical distribution. Methods. Root biomass, C-OM, C-MAOM and C-POM were measured in a Petrocalcic Argiudol at five soil depths up to 100 cm during two years in the south-eastern Pampas of Argentina. The field experiment comprised 28 plots including five perennial pastures and two annual crop sequences. Associations between variables were assessed by regression analysis and non-linear models. Results. Overall, ACS and PP had similar cumulative root biomass. Both, root biomass and soil C stocks exponentially decreased with soil depth. Soil C stocks associated to root biomass tended to stabilize over a threshold value of root biomass for C-MAOM and C-OM. C-POM tended to stabilize over a threshold value only in treatments that included tall fescue. Conclusions. Our results highlights the key role of roots to improve soil C stocks through the design of forage crop rotations that include crops able to increase root inputs to the soil, such as tall fescue.

Publication
Plant and Soil