A 5-year study evaluated the change in the quantity of soil total C (STC), soil organic C (SOC), and soil inorganic C (SIC) stored in the surface 60 cm of the soil profile on two adjacent blocks of land with a long-term history of cropping (CH) or undisturbed grassland (NH) on similar soil types between 1999 and 2004. The NH area was tilled and a grass-legume species mix was seeded into plots on both the NH and the CH areas. Selected plots of restored grass were established so they could be grazed (GG) by livestock while other plots were left ungrazed (UG). Original undisturbed (and ungrazed) grassland plots within the NH area were used as a control treatment. Initially, STC and SOC in CH were lower than NH when compared under the semi-arid environmental conditions found in southwestern North Dakota. Over the study period, the undisturbed grass control plots had increases in STC and SOC levels in the soil profile of 3.90 kg·m−2 and 3.34 kg·m−2, respectively. Restored grass on the NH area with grazing showed increases in STC and SOC values of 2.11 and 1.26 kg·m−2, respectively, while without grazing, profile STC and SOC had values of 3.80 and 3.28 kg·m−2, respectively. Restored grass on the CH area showed increases in profile STC and SOC values of 0.55 and 1.96 kg·m−2, respectively, for the grazed plots and 0.78 and 2.11 kg·m−2, respectively, when left ungrazed. Soil inorganic C, though present in the soils, did not significantly change during the study. The lower C accumulation in the CH plots may be due to a lag time in the establishment of mycorrhizal associations with the seeded species, the inoculums of which were already present in the NH soils. Changes in STC were likely due to changes in water relationships in the soil profile where management changes affected water infiltration and its movement causing leaching of SIC below the 60 cm depth evaluated. Soils under undisturbed grassland continue to accumulate carbon while soils of the disturbed grassland or cropped prior to re-establishing grass showed losses that occurred due to either accumulating C at a lower rate or perhaps to C loss during the initial establishment period (1–2 years).
Chemistry and Pharmacology
Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition