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Rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are a major driver of global climate change. Farmers can help to mitigate this climate change by reducing CO2 emissions from agricultural soils. One way to do this is to include perennial forages within a crop rotation, which may reduce CO2 emissions: these forage species lead to a reduction in tillage, a practice known to increase soil respiration. Little is currently known regarding how the different forage crop species themselves influence CO2 emissions. To gain an understanding of the effects that crop selection and harvest have on soil carbon dynamics, we tested grasses, legumes, and grass-legume bicultures for soil respiration using a standard clipping procedure to mimic realistic harvesting. Our preliminary analysis indicates that grass species tended to exhibit higher rates of soil respiration than legumes and bicultures. We also observed a decline in soil respiration following harvest. The results of this study, which will continue for several more years to examine long-term effects, will help farmers select forage crops that reduce the impacts of food production on global climate.
Maley, Christopher E. Jr., "The Effects of Forage Systems on Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Soil" (2017). Biology Summer Fellows. 39.