Soil storage as affected by tillage and straw management: an assessment using field measurements and model predictions

Kees Van Groenigen, Astley Hastings, Dermott Forristal, Brendan Roth, Mike Jones, Pete Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Soil tillage and straw management are both known to affect soil organic matter dynamics. However, it is still unclear whether, or how, these two practices interact to affect soil C storage, and data from long term studies are scarce. Soil C models may help to overcome some of these problems. Here we compare direct measurements of soil C contents from a 9 year old tillage experiment to predictions made by RothC and a cohort model. Soil samples were collected from plots in an Irish winter wheat field that were exposed to either conventional (CT) or shallow non-inversion tillage (RT). Crop residue was removed from half of the RT and CT plots after harvest, allowing us to test for interactive effects between tillage practices and strawmanagement. Within the 0–30 cm layer, soil C contents were significantly increased both by straw retention and by RT. Tillage and strawmanagement did not interact to determine the total amount of soil C in this layer. The highest average soil C contents (68.9 ± 2.8 Mg C ha-1) were found for the combination of RT with straw incorporation, whereas the lowest average soil C contents (57.3 ± 2.3 Mg C ha-1) were found for CT with straw removal. We found no significant treatment effects on soil C contents at lower depths. Both models suggest that at our site, RT stimulates soil C storage largely by decreasing the decomposition of old soil C. Extrapolating our findings to the rest of Ireland, we estimate that RT will lead to C mitigation ranging from 0.18 to 1.0 Mg C ha-1 y-1 relative to CT, with the mitigation rate depending on the initial SOC level. However, on-farm assessments are still needed to determine whether RT management practices can be adopted under Irish conditions without detrimental effects on crop yield.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-225
Number of pages8
JournalAgriculture Ecosystems & Environment
Issue number1-2
Early online date11 Jan 2011
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2011


  • tillage
  • soil C storage
  • straw management
  • soil C modelling
  • profile carbon sequestration
  • long-term experiments
  • on-farm assessment
  • organic-matter
  • no-tillage
  • European soils
  • climate-change
  • crop residue
  • agriculture
  • turnover


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