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De Sanctis, G., Roggero, P. P., Seddaiu, G., Orsini, R., Porter, C. H., & Jones, J. W. (2012). Long-term no tillage increased soil organic carbon content of rain-fed cereal systems in a Mediterranean area. European Journal of Agronomy, 40, 18–27.
Abstract: The differential impact on soil organic carbon (SOC) of applying no tillage (NT) compared to conventional tillage (CT, i.e. mouldboard ploughing), along with three rates of nitrogen (N) fertilizer application (0, 90 and 180 kg ha−1 y−1), was studied under rain-fed Mediterranean conditions in a long-term experiment based on a durum wheat–maize rotation, in which crop residues were left on the soil (NT) or incorporated (CT). Observed SOC content following 8 and 12 years of continuous treatment application was significantly higher in the top 10 cm of the soil under NT than CT, but it was similar in the 10–40 cm layer. NT grain yields for both maize and durum wheat were below those attained under CT (on average 32% and 14% lower respectively) at a given rate of N fertilizer application. Soil, climate and crop data over 5 years were used to calibrate DSSAT model in order to simulate the impact of the different management practices over a 50-year period. Good agreement was obtained between observed and simulated values for crops grain yield, above-ground biomass and observed SOC values. Results from the simulations showed that under NT the weeds growing during the intercrop fallow period made a significant contribution to the observed SOC increase. When the contribution of the weed fallow was considered, NT significantly increased SOC in the top 40 cm of the soil at an average rate of 0.43, 0.31 and 0.03 t ha−1 per year, respectively for 180, 90 and 0 kg N ha−1 year−1, within the simulated 50 years. Under CT, a significant SOC increase was simulated under N180 and a significant decrease when no fertilizer was supplied.