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Timing is key in keeping organic matter in wet cropland soils, new study finds

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November 24, 2017 Iowa State University read full ScienceDaily article here

..The study found that timing plays a key role in how well wet soils retain organic matter. While soils with consistently high moisture content do retain organic matter over the long term, soils may actually lose organic matter during shorter spans of flooding. The findings have implications for agricultural fields that are poorly drained or flood for a few weeks of the year before drying out, Hall said. The study also shows that wetlands, thought of as a useful tool for conservation and carbon sequestration, may require consistent flooding to realize environmental benefits from organic matter accumulation….

…”We found that periodically wet soils don’t necessarily protect organic matter from decomposition and may lead to losses, at least over a timescale of weeks to months,” he said.

The study drew on research conducted in an ISU laboratory. The researchers took soil samples from a central Iowa cornfield and subjected the sample to various conditions before conducting chemical analyses.

Hall said future research should widen in scope and include field experiments as well as laboratory-based work. He said he wants to test how various drainage techniques influence organic matter loss as well as pinpoint the length of time required for wet soil to realize environmental benefits….

Wenjuan Huang, Steven J. Hall. Elevated moisture stimulates carbon loss from mineral soils by releasing protected organic matter. Nature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01998-z

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