First-order decay models to describe soil C-CO2 Loss after rotary tillage

  • Newton La Scala Jr. UNESP; FCAV; Depto. de Ciências Exatas
  • Afonso Lopes UNESP; FCAV; Depto. de Ciências Exatas
  • Kurt Spokas USDA; ARS; Soil & Water Management Unit
  • David Walter Archer USDA; ARS; Northern Great Plains Research Lab
  • Donald Reicosky USDA; ARS; North Central Soil Conservation Research Lab.
Keywords: soil respiration, soil tillage, soil organic matter, labile carbon decay


To further understand the impact of tillage on CO2 emission, the applicability of two conceptual models was tested, which describe the CO2 emission after tillage as a function of the non-tilled emission plus a correction due to the tillage disturbance. Models assume that C in readily decomposable organic matter follows a first-order reaction kinetics equation as: dCsoil (t) / dt = -k Csoil (t), and that soil C-CO2 emission is proportional to the C decay rate in soil, where Csoil(t) is the available labile soil C (g m-2) at any time (t) and k is the decay constant (time-1). Two possible assumptions were tested to determine the tilled (F T) fluxes: the decay constants (k) of labile soil C before and after tillage are different (Model 1) or not (Model 2). Accordingly, C flux relationships between non-tilled (F NT) and tilled (F T) conditions are given by: F T = F NT + a1 e-a2t (model 1) and F T = a3 F NT e-a4t (model 2), where t is time after tillage. Predicted and observed CO2 fluxes presented good agreement based on the coefficient of determination (R² = 0.91). Model comparison revealed a slightly improved statistical fit of model 2, where all C pools are assigned with the same k constant. Rotary speed was related to increases in the amount of labile C available and to changes of the mean resident labile C pool available after tillage. This approach allows describing the temporal variability of tillage-induced emissions by a simple analytical function, including non-tilled emission plus an exponential term modulated by tillage and environmentally dependent parameters.


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How to Cite
La Scala Jr., N., Lopes, A., Spokas, K., Archer, D., & Reicosky, D. (2009). First-order decay models to describe soil C-CO2 Loss after rotary tillage . Scientia Agricola, 66(5), 650-657.
Soils and Plant Nutrition