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Soil, land care and environmental research
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Quantifying above and belowground biomass carbon inputs for sugar-cane production in Brazil

A. M. Silva-Olaya A E , C. A. Davies B , C. E. P. Cerri C , D. J. Allen B , F. F. C. Mello D and C. C. Cerri D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A University of the Amazon, Street 17, Diagonal 17, Cr. 3F, Florencia 180002, Colombia.

B Shell Technology Centre Houston, 3333 Highway 6 South, Houston, TX 77082, USA.

C University of São Paulo ‘Luiz de Queiroz’ College of Agriculture, Av. Paduas Dias 11, Piracicaba 13400-970, Brazil.

D University of São Paulo – Center for Nuclear Energy in Agriculture, Av. Centenário 303, Piracicaba 13416-000, Brazil.

E Corresponding author. Email: amsolayaa@gmail.com

Soil Research 55(7) 640-648 https://doi.org/10.1071/SR16090
Submitted: 6 April 2016  Accepted: 10 January 2017   Published: 22 February 2017

Abstract

Expansion of sugarcane crop due to the increasing demand for sugar and ethanol can affect both existing soil carbon (C) stocks, and subsequent input of new C from above and belowground biomass, influencing the overall C intensity and C payback times due to the change of land use. We present above and belowground dry biomass production, shoot-to-root ratio (S : R) as well as the net annual C inputs to the soil for sugarcane in different ratoon stages. The selected areas were as follows: (1) recently planted sugarcane area (PC), (2) first year ratoon cane (RC1) and (3) 4-year ratoon cane (RC4), which were established under Typic Quartzipsamments located in north-eastern São Paulo State. The sugarcane S : R ratios ranged from 6.6 in PC to 3.4 in RC4, and total sugarcane C inputs from 29.6 to 30.8 Mg C ha–1. The overall C balance for land use change requires effects on soil C and also C inputs from previous and future land uses. The sugarcane C input was between 3.7 and 4.0 Mg C ha–1 for each sugarcane cycle of 5 years. When accounting for soil C stock changes and aboveground biomass C losses from the prior land use, the payback times for sugarcane biofuel C debts are reduced by 3, 2 and 1 years for Cerrado wooded, Cerrado grassland and pasture conversions into sugarcane respectively.

Additional keywords: ethanol, harvesting system without burning, land use change, roots, Saccharum spp., shoots, soil carbon.


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