The potential to increase grassland soil C stocks by extending reseeding intervals is dependent on soil texture and depth

Elias, Dafydd M.O. ORCID:; Mason, Kelly E. ORCID:; Howell, Katherine; Mitschunas, Nadine; Hulmes, Lucy; Hulmes, Sarah; Lebron, Inma ORCID:; Pywell, Richard F. ORCID:; McNamara, Niall P. ORCID: 2023 The potential to increase grassland soil C stocks by extending reseeding intervals is dependent on soil texture and depth. Journal of Environmental Management, 334, 117465. 11, pp.

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Grasslands account for ∼30% of global terrestrial carbon (C), of which most is stored in soils and provide important ecosystem services including livestock and forage production. Reseeding of temporary grasslands on a 5-year cycle is a common management practice to rejuvenate sward productivity and reduce soil compaction, but is physically disruptive and may reduce soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks. However, research to date is limited, which impacts on the ability to optimise grassland management for climate change mitigation. To determine whether extending the time interval up to 20 years between grassland reseeding can increase stable SOC stocks, a soil survey was conducted across three UK grassland chrono-sequences comprising 24 fields on contrasting soil types. We found that grassland SOC stocks (39.8–114.8 Mg C ha−1) were higher than co-located fields in arable rotations (29.3–83.2 Mg C ha−1) and the relationship with grassland age followed a curvilinear relationship with rapid SOC stock accumulation in the year following reseeding (2.69–18.3 Mg C ha−1 yr−1) followed by progressively slower SOC accumulation up to 20 years. Contrary to expectation, all grasslands had similar soil bulk densities and sward composition questioning the need for traditional 5-year reseeding cycles. Fractionation of soils into stable mineral associated fractions revealed that coarse textured grassland topsoils (0–15 cm) were near-saturated in C irrespective of grassland age whilst loam soils reached saturation ∼10 years after reseeding. Fine-textured topsoils and subsoils (15–30 cm) of all textures were under saturated and thus appear to hold the most potential to accrue additional stable C. However, the lack of a relationship between C saturation deficit and grassland age in subsoils suggests that more innovative management to promote SOC redistribution to depth, such as a switch to diverse leys or full inversion tillage may be required to maximise subsoil SOC stocks. Taken together our findings suggest that extending the time between grassland reseeding could temporarily increase SOC stocks without compromising sward composition or soil structure. However, detailed monitoring of the trade-offs with grassland productivity are required. Fine textured soils and subsoils (15–30 cm) have the greatest potential to accrue additional stable C due to under saturation of fine mineral pools.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0301-4797
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: grasslands, reseeding, management, soil carbon stocks, fractionation, C saturation
NORA Subject Terms: Agriculture and Soil Science
Date made live: 03 Nov 2023 14:15 +0 (UTC)

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