Conservation of Soil Organic Carbon and Nitrogen Fractions in a Tallgrass Prairie in Oklahoma
USDA-Agricultural Research Service, 3218 Williams Hall, NCSU Campus Box 7620, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Grazinglands Research Laboratory, 7207 W. Cheyenne Street, El Reno, OK 73036, USA
Agronomy Department, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
The author is retired.
Agronomy 2019, 9(4), 204; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy9040204
Received: 14 March 2019 / Revised: 13 April 2019 / Accepted: 18 April 2019 / Published: 20 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland Management for Sustainable Agroecosystems)
Native grasslands in the Great Plains of North America have mostly disappeared in the past century due to agricultural expansion. A grazing study was established on Paleustolls and Argiustolls supporting a remnant, but historically grazed tallgrass prairie in central Oklahoma. Stocking method of beef cattle was differentiated into continuous and rotational treatments (10 sub-paddocks) in 2009 and these treatments continued until present. Soil was sampled in 2009 and 2012 at depths of 0–6, 6–12, 12–20, and 20–30 cm and in 2017 at depths of 0–15 and 15–30 cm. Total, particulate, microbial biomass, and mineralizable C and N fractions were highly stratified with depth, having 2–10 times greater concentration at a depth of 0–6 cm as that at 20–30 cm. Strong associations existed among most of these soil organic C and N fractions, given the large range that resulted from sampling at multiple depths. No discernable differences in soil organic C and N fractions occurred due to stocking method at any sampling time or depth. Evidence for biological nitrification inhibition suggested a mechanism for conservation of available N with less opportunity for loss. In addition, strong association of available N with biologically active C indicated slow, but sustained release of N that was strongly coupled to C cycling. We conclude that stocking method had a neutral effect on conservation of already high antecedent conditions of soil organic C and N fractions during the first 8 years of differentially imposed management.