The aim of study was to quantify the temporal change of soil organic carbon content in relation to agricultural management for a dry sandy arable soil and to derive the C sequestration potential.
We analyzed data from a long-term field experiment with three crop rotations of different cereal proportions, with two levels of straw application (removal/return) in combination with four mineral nitrogen rates (40 … 160 kg ha-1 yr-1). Treatments are arranged in a two-factorial block design with two replicates for each rotation. During the 24-year study period, grain and straw yield of two cereal test crops and soil organic carbon content in topsoil were determined annually from each plot.
Soil organic carbon content was positively influenced by removing non-cereal crops from the rotation and – to a smaller extent – by straw application. Increasing mineral N-fertilization from 40 kg ha-1 yr-1 to higher rates increased grain yield of rye but not barley, increased straw yield of both cereals more, with no effect of higher straw yields on soil organic carbon content.
Despite the overall soil organic carbon content of the sandy soil under study is comparatively low, the results indicate that agricultural management has a relevant impact on soil carbon stocks. Straw return contributes to carbon sequestration even in rotations with a low potential for reproduction of organic matter. High mineral N-fertilization is not an adequate measure to sequester carbon in these soils.