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Land Degradation & Development
le in Press): 2013

Organic farming affects c and n in soils under olive groves in mediterranean areas

Luis Parras-Alcántara, Luisa Díaz-Jaimes, Beatriz Lozano-García

Department of Agricultural Chemistry and Soil Science, Faculty of Science, Agrifood Campus of International Excellence—ceiA3, University of Cordoba, Cordoba, Spain.


Under semiarid climatic conditions, intensive tillage increases soil organic matter losses, reduces soil quality, and contributes to climate change due to increased CO2 emissions. There is a need for an agricultural management increasing soil organic matter. This paper presents the organic carbon (OC) and nitrogen (N) stocks, C:N ratio and stratification ratios (SRs) of these properties for olive groves soils under long-term organic farming (OF), and conventional tillage (CT) in Los Pedroches valley, southern Spain. The results show that OF increased C and N stocks. The soil organic carbon (SOC) stock was 73·6 Mg ha−1 in OF and 54·4Mgha−1 in CT; and the total nitrogen (TN) stock was 7·1 Mg ha−1? and 5·8 Mg ha−1 for OF and CT, respectively. In the surface horizon (A: 0–16·9 cm in OF and Ap: 0–21·8 cm in CT) and Bw horizon (16·9–49·6 cm in OF and 21·8–56 cm in CT), SOC and TN concentrations and C:N ratios were higher in OF than in CT. Soil properties stratification in depth, expressed as a ratio, indicates the soil quality under different soil management systems. The SR of SOC ranged from 2·2 to 3·1 in OF and from 2·1 to 2·2 in CT. However, only SR2 (defined by Ap-A/C) showed significant differences between CT and OF. The SR of TN showed similar trends to that of the SR of SOC. Organic farming contributes to a better soil quality and to increased carbon sequestration.

Keywords: soil organic carbon and nitrogen stocks; C:N ratio; stratification ratio; olive groves; conventional tillage



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