Nguyen, L. T. and A. N. Kravchenko. 2021. Effects of cover crops on soil CO2 and N2O emissions across topographically diverse agricultural landscapes in corn-soybean-wheat organic transition. European Journal of Agronomy 122:126189.
Agriculture represents about 10 % of total greenhouse gases (GHG) emission in the US, in which carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) can greatly contribute to global warming and climate change. Organic farming has been increasingly popular as it provides long-term environmental benefits including GHG mitigation. Judicious use of cover crops in crop rotation systems has been considered an effective approach to sustain crop productivity during organic transition period. Here, we examined effects of cover crops on soil CO2 and N2O fluxes after the first year of organic transition in corn-soybean-wheat rotation across three contrasting topographies, particularly depression, slope, and summit at Kellogg Biological Station located in Southwest Michigan, USA. Three cover cropping systems used in this study were (1) cereal rye; (2) a mixture of cold susceptible species, namely, oat, winter pea, and radish, frost-killed in winter (WK); and (3) a winter hardy mixture of cold tolerant species, namely annual ryegrass, Dwarf Essex rapeseed, and crimson clover (WH). We also examined the effect of the size of incorporated plant residue fragments on soil CO2 and N2O emissions. Soil GHG emissions were the lowest on slopes as compared to depressions and summits. Cover crop mixtures including WH and WK increased soil CO2 fluxes emitted from the soil while cereal rye decreased it. Cutting plant residues prior to incorporation tended to decrease CO2 emission, suggesting that reducing fragment size of incorporated residue has a potential to mitigate GHG emissions from agricultural soils. In contrast, differences in N2O emissions for any of the studied effects were not statistically significant, likely due to very high variability of N2O fluxes. Soil temperature, moisture and total aboveground biomass were strongly associated with soil CO2 and N2O fluxes from soil.
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