Soil organic matter plays an important role in improving soil properties, crop productivity and is a key constituent and driver of the global carbon cycle. Nevertheless, relatively limited quantitative information is available on the organic carbon (OC) stocks and the actual potentials for
[...] Read more.
Soil organic matter plays an important role in improving soil properties, crop productivity and is a key constituent and driver of the global carbon cycle. Nevertheless, relatively limited quantitative information is available on the organic carbon (OC) stocks and the actual potentials for OC and total nitrogen (N) sequestration under arid cropping systems. In this study, we evaluated the immediate and long-term (after eight years) effects of compost or manure additions, at a rate of 100 t ha−1
, on the soil OC and N stocks in the Gataaya oasis in Southern Tunisia. The oasis had been abandoned and no additions had taken place in the 10 years prior to experiment. Soil samples were taken systematically every 10 cm up to a depth of 50 cm. After adding compost (CMP) and manure (MAN) in 2013, the bulk density (BD) decreased in the surface layers, especially at the 0–10 cm soil layer where it declined from 1.53 g cm−3
to 1.38 g cm−3
under compost and 1.41 g cm−3
under manure. Soil OC and N stocks, however, increased after adding compost and manure. Manure contributed more to OC stock increase than compost, with +337 and +241%, respectively. Correspondingly, the N stock increased by + 47 and +12%, respectively, due to manure and compost. After four years, compared to 2013 stocks, the decrease in OC stock was almost identical with −43 (CMP) and −41% (MAN). However, N stock seemed more stable under compost compared to manure, with −2 and −19%, respectively. After eight years, the N stock remained higher in the deepest layer 30–50 cm compared to other layers. This suggested that high gypsum application can inhibit N mineralization. The initial enhanced OC stock after the organic amendment, both for compost and for manure, was very quickly lost and after eight years had virtually returned to the initial OC state by the end of the eight years. Therefore, these oasis ecosystems require a near annual supply of exogenous organic material to maintain OC at an enhanced level. After eight years, manure amendment was found to be better than compost for increasing soil OC (3.16 against 1.86 t/ha, respectively) and for increasing N (0.35 against 0.18 t/ha, respectively). However, the cost and availability make the amendment with compost more interesting in oasis (400 Tunisian dinars/t for compost against 1016 Tunisian dinars/t for manure).