Threshold Dynamics in Soil Carbon Storage for Bioenergy Crops
Friday, 19 December 2014
Due to increasing demands for bioenergy, a considerable amount of land in the Midwestern United States could be devoted to the cultivation of second-generation bioenergy crops, such as switchgrass and miscanthus. In this study, we attempt to explore and analyze how different amounts of above-ground biomass returned to the soil at harvest affect the below-ground dynamics of carbon and nitrogen as a comparative study between miscanthus, swichgrass, and corn-corn-soybean rotation. The simulation results show that there is a threshold effect in the amount of above-ground litter input in the soil after harvest that will reach a critical organic matter C:N ratio in the soil, triggering a reduction of the soil microbial population, with significant consequences in other microbe-related processes such as decomposition and mineralization. These thresholds are approximately 25% and 15% of above-ground biomass for switchgrass and miscanthus, respectively. However, we do not observe such threshold effects for corn-corn-soybean rotation. These results suggest that values above these thresholds could result in a significant reduction of decomposition and mineralization, which in turn would enhance the sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the topsoil and reduce inorganic nitrogen losses when compared with a corn-corn-soybean rotation.