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Soil, land care and environmental research

Long term trends in fertility of soils under continuous cultivation and cereal cropping in southern Queensland. II. Total organic carbon and its rate of loss from the soil profile

RC Dalal and RJ Mayer

Australian Journal of Soil Research 24(2) 281 - 292
Published: 1986


The kinetics of organic C loss were studied in six southern Queensland soils subjected to different periods (0-70 years) of cultivation and cereal cropping. The equation: Ct = Ce + (C0 - Ce)exp(- kt), where C0, Ce and C, are organic C contents initially, at equilibrium and at time k respectively, and k is the rate of loss of organic C from soil, was employed in the study. The parameter k was calculated both for %C (kc) and for weight of organic C/volume of soil (k,), determined by correcting for differences in sampling depth due to changes in bulk density upon cultivation. Mean annual rainfall largely determined both C, and Ce, presumably by influencing the amount of dry matter produced. Values of kc and kw varied greatly among the soils studied. For the 0-0.1 m depth, kw was 0.065, 0.080, 0.180, 0.259, 0.069 and 1.224 year-1 respectively for Waco (black earth - initially grassland), Langland-Logie (grey brown and red clays - brigalow), Cecilvale (grey, brown and red clays - poplar box), Billa Billa (grey, brown and red clays - belah), Thallon (grey, brown and red clays - coolibah) and Riverview (red earths - silver-leaved ironbark). The k values were significantly correlated with organic Chrease activity ratio (r = 0.99***) and reciprocal of clay content (r = 0.97**) of the virgin soils. In stepwise multiple regression analysis, aggregation index (for kc values) or exchangeable sodium percentage (for kw) and organic C/urease activity ratio of soils were significantly associated with the overall rate of loss of organic C. It was inferred, therefore, that the relative inaccessibility and protection of organic matter against microbial and enzymic attack resulted in reduced organic C loss. Losses of organic C from the deeper layers (0-0.2 m, 0-0.3 m) were observed in Waco, Langlands-Logie, Cecilvale and Riverview soils, although generally rate of loss decreased with depth.

© CSIRO 1986

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