The impact of tillage systems on the quantity and quality of soil organic carbon

Hernán Apezteguía1 y Roberto Sereno1

For the sustainability of an agroecosystem it is imperative to conserve soil organic matter (MO). Soil organic matter can be divided into a moist stable fraction and a dry labile one. Light fraction soil organic matter can be obtained by flotation in a liquid of known density. In the central region of Córdoba, Argentina, in 1983 a long-term tillage trial was established that included these treatments: conventional tillage (LC), vertical tillage (LV) and direct seeding (SD), in a corn/soybean (Zea mays L./Glycine max Merr.). rotation. The objective of this work was to evaluate tillage effects on the quantity, quality and depth distribution of soil organic carbon. Conservation tillage increased organic carbon content in the top layer (0-10 cm), while conventional tillage had the reverse effect. Direct seeding stored 6.9 Mg ha-1 more organic carbon than conventional tillage at 0-30 cm depth. For the climatic conditions of the region, it acted as a sink for atmospheric CO2, conventional tillage was a source of CO2, and vertical tillage conserved initial values. Under direct seeding, stable carbon fractions were significantly greater than in the other tillage systems. Direct seeding was a sustainable system for the region because it produced a greater quantity of carbon with better quality and stability.

Keywords: tillage, organic matter, density fractions.
1 Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Facultad de Ciencias Agropecuarias, Grupo de Gestión Ambiental de Suelo y Agua, c.c. 509 - 500, Córdoba, Argentina. E-mail: hapezte@agro.uncor.edu