Stable isotope technique in the evaluation of tillage and fertilizer effects on soil carbon and nitrogen sequestration and water use efficiency

  • Busari M
  • Salako F
  • Tuniz C
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Agricultural soil could be made to serve as a sink rather than a source of greenhouse gases by suitable soil management. This study was, therefore, conducted to assess the impact of tillage and fertilizer application on soil and plant carbon and nitrogen fractionation and intrinsic water use efficiency (iWUE). The experiment was a split-split-plot factorial design with three replications. The main plot consisted of two tillage treatments: zero tillage (ZT) and conventional tillage (CT). The sub-plot contained four NPK fertilizer treatments (0, 90, 120 and 150 kg N ha-1), while the sub-sub-plot comprised three poultry manure (PM) treatments (0, 10 and 20 Mg ha-1). Soil carbon and nitrogen sequestration were evaluated using stable isotope of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N). The δ13C in maize plant was used to obtain iWUE. It was observed that soil δ13C and δ15N were more depleted under ZT than CT and in plots treated with 20 Mg ha-1PM (PM20) implying carbon and nitrogen sequestration under ZT and by PM20. Relative to the control, application of PM20raised soil δ15N enrichment by 82% and 96% under CT and ZT, respectively. Higher iWUE of 25.7% was obtained under CT and was significantly higher than the iWUE values under ZT in the second year of the study while the iWUE was significantly lower with PM20application than other fertilizer treatments. The significant δ13C depletion and hence lower iWUE with combination of NPK fertilizer and PM under CT than the control implied that soil disturbance under tilled plots was mediated by combined nutrient management thereby limiting soil C available for fractionation resulting in lower iWUE. This suggests that conservation tillage such as zero tillage and integrated application of organic and inorganic fertilizers are good strategies for reducing soil carbon and nitrogen emission.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Intrinsic water use efficiency
  • Isotopic fractionation
  • Sequestration
  • Stable isotope
  • Tillage

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