Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment (AGR ECOSYST ENVIRON )

Publisher: Elsevier


Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment deals with the interface between agriculture and the environment. Preference is given to papers that develop and apply interdisciplinarity, bridge scientific disciplines, integrate scientific analyses derived from different perspectives of agroecosystem sustainability, and are put in as wide an international or comparative context as possible. It is addressed to scientists in agriculture, food production, agroforestry, ecology, environment, earth and resource management, and administrators and policy-makers in these fields. The journal regularly covers topics such as: ecology of agricultural production methods; influence of agricultural production methods on the environment, including soil, water and air quality, and use of energy and non-renewable resources; agroecosystem management, functioning, health, and complexity, including agro-biodiversity and response of multi-species ecosystems to environmental stress; the effect of pollutants on agriculture; agro-landscape values and changes, landscape indicators and sustainable land use; farming system changes and dynamics; integrated pest management and crop protection; and problems of agroecosystems from a biological, physical, economic, and socio-cultural standpoint. Types of papers The Journal publishes original scientific papers, short communications, review articles, book reviews, special issues containing selected and edited papers dealing with a specific theme or based on a conference or workshop, and occasional editorials and commentaries at the discretion of the Editors-in-Chief. A section of this journal is now published as the companion journal Applied Soil Ecology.

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Publications in this journal

  • J.C. Clague, R. Stenger, T.J. Clough
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    ABSTRACT: Denitrification in the groundwater systems of agricultural catchments can provide a substantial ‘ecosystem service’ by attenuating leached nitrate (NO3−) before it reaches surface water bodies. Samples along a groundwater flow path with low dissolved oxygen and declining NO3− concentrations can indicate the occurrence of denitrification. Isotopic analysis of this NO3− can potentially identify and quantify denitrification activity. In this study, shallow groundwater samples (maximum 5 m below ground surface) were taken from three locations within a small agricultural catchment in the Waikato region of New Zealand. The δ15N and δ18O values of NO3− were analysed to try to determine where denitrification was occurring and at what rate. Results indicated that denitrification rates varied spatially, but interpretation was confounded by insufficiently understood flow paths and extremely low concentrations of NO3− in reduced groundwater. Seasonal denitrification was observed at a Gley soil site where the soil profile was periodically saturated to near the ground surface and δ15N-NO3− values reached +28.5‰ and δ18O-NO3− values up to +19.6‰. In contrast to expectations, NO3− in well-oxidised groundwater samples showed substantial variability in its δ15N and δ18O isotopic signature. This indicated that the NO3− originated from multiple sources, which restricted the quantification of denitrification.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 04/2015; 202.
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    ABSTRACT: Late season catch crops could be an effective tool to conserve highly available N after grazing of green manures. An experiment was established to investigate the productivity and N capturing abilities of barley (Hordeum vulgare cv. Cowboy) and oilseed radish (Raphanus sativus L.) crops seeded after a grazed green manure. Green manure was a mix of forage pea (Pisum sativum cv. 40–10), soybean (Gylcine max cv. Prudence) and oat (Avena sativa cv. Legget). The experiment was repeated twice in Carman, Manitoba in 2010 and 2011. Catch crops were seeded in late summer either no-till or after soil cultivation of the grazed plots. Wheat (Triticum aestivum cv. Waskada) was seeded in the second year as a test crop for both experiments. Catch crop productivity and N uptake was influenced by season (greater in the wetter year) and catch crop type (barley and radish produced 1990 and 1490 kg ha−1, respectively) but not tillage system. The catch crops had their greatest overall effect on soil NO3-N content in 2010 under conditions of high autumn precipitation when N leaching was more severe. Here, the catch crops significantly reduced NO3-N at all depths. Under drier conditions in 2011, catch crops only reduced NO3-N in the top 30 cm. There was average 57 and 12 kg ha−1 more soil NO3-N in plots with no catch crops than plots where catch crops were grown in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Wheat N uptake at maturity was reduced around 25% when grown after catch crops. Similarly, wheat grain yield was 12–31% less after catch crops than no catch crops. This study showed that catch crops can be used to capture excess nutrients after grazing, but N release from the selected catch crops in the following year was not in synchrony with the wheat N demand.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 04/2015; 202(1):31-41.
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    ABSTRACT: Elevated [CO2] stimulates plant growth, which in turn demands more nutrients to sustain it. The nutrient demand of N-fixing plants may differ from that of other plants under elevated [CO2]. We conducted an experiment to determine how elevated [CO2] affected N, P and K content, assimilation of nutrients and accumulation of metabolites in the legume mung bean [Vigna radiata L.]. We investigated the effect of 550 ± 19 μmol mol−1 [CO2] on N, P, K uptake and utilization by mung bean at the free-air carbon dioxide enrichment (FACE) experimental facility in north China. At maturity, N concentration in whole plants decreased by 4.4%, but P and K concentration was unchanged at elevated [CO2]. The weight of nodules per plant significantly increased at elevated [CO2] but N, P, K-use efficiency for seed and the ratio of seed yield to cumulative absorption of N, P and K was unaffected. These results indicate that under elevated [CO2] the mechanisms governing N absorption and metabolism in mung bean was different from that for P and K. The nutrient dynamics between different elements of overall plant biomass and the soil nutrients pool could, therefore, be changed in future by elevated [CO2].
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 04/2015; 202.
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    ABSTRACT: Deforestation accompanied by the expansion of agricultural land makes tree resources less available in many regions in the tropics, and small-scale farmers often incorporate trees with agricultural lands to meet their demands for food, timber, fuelwood, or fodder. This study analyzed the distribution patterns and management of multiple tree species grown in the rice paddy fields of a forest-depleted region in northeast Thailand – a region whose forestland represents only 16.32% of the total land area. Twenty villages from 11 provinces were selected for the remote sensing analysis of tree density and microhabitat. Interview surveys were conducted among villagers on their tree use and management, and field observations were performed to determine tree species’ composition. The average tree-unit density (based on the number of tree crowns, either of a single tree or of cohesive trees, appearing in satellite images) was 6.27 units/ha, and was correlated with both density on the levee (5.30 units/ha on average) and levee length per unit paddy area (475.25 m/ha on average). The levees were more significant as tree habitats in the villages on the floodplain where the early introduction of agricultural machinery and direct seeding reduced the number of trees inside the fields where rice crops are grown. In total, 79 tree species representing 66 genera and 33 families were observed in the paddy fields. Remnant trees from the original forest, mostly Dipterocarpaceae and Fabaceae, have decreased due to cutting for use as timber and fuel. More recently, eucalypt and teak for timber, and mango and tamarind for edible fruits, have been planted on the levees as income sources. Farmers have recognized that while leaf litter fertilizes the soil, excess shading reduces the rice yield. The coppicing of eucalypt and pollarding of Mitragyna diversifolia were conducted for the sustainable harvest of timber and fuelwood, and also to avoid creating excess shade. Paddy rice fields are the monoculture of a staple crop, but they can harbor multiple trees on their levees, which play a counteractive role in forestland decline.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 04/2015; 202.
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    ABSTRACT: Phytoremediation is the most environmentally friendly remediation technology for mitigating agricultural land contamination. However, phytoremediation is a slow process. If the harvested plants cannot provide economic benefits, phytoremediation technology may not be applicable. In this study, peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.) and rape plants (Brassica campestris L.) were planted on Pb-contaminated farmland with a Pb concentration of 5600 mg kg−1. The objectives were to investigate the effect of Pb-contaminated soil on peanut growth, estimate Pb-removal efficiency and evaluate the economic benefits of using peanut products as biomass energy or for other purposes. All these efforts were for the assessment of the feasibility of using peanut plants for the Pb-contaminated land phytoremediation. The study found that biomass energy yield and Pb removal rate were both higher for peanuts than for rapeseed plants. Planting peanuts produced 38.35 t ha−1 y−1 of dry matter, and removed 17.6 kg ha−1 y−1 of Pb. As a biofuel, peanut dry matter can generate a heat value of 654.5 GJ ha−1 y−1, which is comparable to that produced by burning 31.3 t of raw coal. The output of peanut kernel was 6.3 t ha−1 y−1 with Pb content less than the European Union’s maximum limit for animal feeds, and would be valuable as animal feed. A period of 317 years would be required to remove all phytoavailable-Pb from this site by using peanuts. This study concluded that using peanut plants is feasible for the phytoremediation, which can be supported by revenues derived from the crops in Pb-contaminated farmland.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 04/2015; 202.
  • D.J. Bagyaraj, G. Thilagar, C. Ravisha, C.G. Kushalappa, K.N. Krishnamurthy, P. Vaast
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    ABSTRACT: Soil microorganisms viz. bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi present in different typologies of coffee production systems were compared. In this study, two types of coffee plants, namely Arabica and Robusta, were grown under different agroforestry management such as coffee under one specialized shade species, multi-story coffee systems with 2 shade tree species, and coffee with 3 or more tree species under moist deciduous and evergreen ecological conditions. Samples were collected from 36 points to include different coffee ecosystems. The highest number of infective propagules of AM fungi was encountered in Arabica coffee under evergreen conditions. Population of bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes were higher under evergreen ecosystem compared to that of deciduous conditions. The population of nitrogen fixing bacteria was more than double in evergreen conditions compared to deciduous ecosystem. Number of lignin decomposing bacteria was higher in evergreen compared to deciduous conditions, but starch hydrolyzing bacteria and pectin-utilizing bacteria were more in deciduous ecosystem. Actinomycetes DAT2-1 isolated from deciduous ecosystem showed antagonistic activity against the root pathogen Fusarium chlamydosporum. It can be concluded that evergreen coffee system supports higher population of microorganisms. Of the two species of coffee, Arabica harboured more AM fungi, bacterial population, N fixers, P solubilizers and cellulose decomposing organisms while Robusta harboured higher number of fungi and actinomycetes. Of the three typologies, coffee grown under two shade tree species supported higher population of all microorganisms.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 04/2015; 202.
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    ABSTRACT: CarboSOIL model and climate outputs from two GCMs (GISS and HadCM3), three time horizons (2020, 2050, 2080), and two emission scenarios (A2 and B2) according to IPCC were used to study the effects of climate change on soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks in a Mediterranean region (Northeast Sardinia, Italy). CarboSOIL is an empirical model based on regression techniques and developed to predict SOC contents at standard soil depths of 0–25, 25–50 and 50–75 cm. The area is characterized by extensive agro-silvo- pastoral systems, and six land uses with different levels of cropping intensification were compared: tilled vineyards (TV), no-tilled grassed vineyards (GV), hay crop (HC), pasture (PA), cork oak forest (CO), and semi-natural systems (SN). The main objectives were: (i) to validate the model predictions with the measured SOC stocks, and (ii) to predict SOC stocks in future climate projections for the different land use types. The model proved its ability to predict SOC stocks at different soil depths, and can be used as a tool for predicting SOC stocks under different climate change scenarios. The results suggest that future climatic scenarios can have a negative effect on SOC stocks in the upper sections of the soil profile, mainly due to a very low increase in the 0–25 cm section and a sharp decrease in the 25–50 cm soil section, in particular in a long term perspective (2080) and under the emission scenario A2. Important decreases of SOC stocks were found in the upper soil sections of the vineyards.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 04/2015;
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    ABSTRACT: Daily outputs from the CSIRO Conformal Cubic Atmospheric Model, driven by four general circulation models, were used in a stochastic weather generator, LARS-WG, to construct local climate scenarios for key cotton production areas in eastern Australia. These scenarios along with elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration were then linked to a process-oriented cotton model (CSIRO OZCOT) to quantify their potential impacts on cotton lint yield, water use, and water use efficiency (WUE) under irrigated and rain-fed conditions in 2030. For irrigated cotton, we considered four water supply levels (2, 4, 6 and 8 ML/ha) at nine cotton production locations (Emerald, Dalby, St. George, Goondiwindi, Moree, Bourke, Narrabri, Warren and Hillston). For rain-fed cotton, we considered three planting configurations (solid, single skip and double skip) at four locations (Emerald, Dalby, Moree and Narrabri). Simulation results show that (1) season temperatures will increase 1–1.2 °C and rainfall will increase 2–16% across locations; (2) for irrigated cotton (assuming full access to water and nitrogen), cotton crop water use will increase 0–4% in more than half of the cases (the combinations of the number of locations and water supply levels); cotton lint yield will increase 0–26% and WUE will increase 0–24% in most of the cases due to counteractive effects of elevated CO2 and future climate, which are location- and water supply-specific; (3) for rain-fed cotton (assuming full initial soil profile), cotton water use will increase 2–8% at Emerald and Narrabri and decrease by −5 to −2% at Dalby and Moree; cotton lint yield will increase 4–26% in most of the cases and WUE will increase 2–22% in all cases. For irrigated cotton, it was found that water supply level with 2 ML/ha generated the greatest positive effects to future climate scenarios across locations except at Dalby where 4 ML/ha was greatest. For rain-fed cotton, a solid planting configuration had the greatest positive response to future climate scenarios at Emerald, Dalby and Moree while double skip planting generated the maximum benefit in lint yield at Narrabri. This simulation analysis also demonstrated the ability of the OZCOT in capturing the interactive effects of elevated CO2 and future climate, indicating the usefulness of this tool in this important research area.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 04/2015; 202.
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    ABSTRACT: Intensive pastoral land use is associated with increased use of phosphate (P) and nitrogen (N) to enhance food and fibre production, but the interaction of N and P, particularly on carbon (C) storage, is not well understood. Our objectives were to determine the quantity and forms of C and N leached and also the changes in soil stocks in association with progressively increasing urea additions in two similar soils with high and low phosphate (P) fertility. A pasture cut-and-carry lysimeter experiment was established in the Waikato region of New Zealand, using soils from sheep grazed farmlets with a P management history of either no P or high P additions. Treatments imposed were a continuation of no P and high P (31.5 kg ha−1 y−1) inputs in combination with 0, 100, 200, 400 kg urea–N ha−1 y−1 in 50 kg split dressings or a single spring application of 400 kg N ha−1 y−1 of bovine urine. The high P soil had greater dissolved organic carbon (DOC) leaching, and DOC leaching in both soils increased with increasing urea inputs. Soil C decreased in the high P soil with N inputs, although there was no correlation between the rate of N addition and C loss. Urea addition led to increased N leaching in both soils, but was reduced in the high P soil compared with the no P soil. Greater herbage production may have utilised more dissolved N in the high P than in the no P soils, which led to less N available for leaching in the high P soil. Urine additions also led to greater C and N leaching in both the no P and high P soils.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 04/2015; 202.
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    ABSTRACT: Quantifying and understanding the impact of animal manure on soil organic carbon (OC) is important for agronomic and environmental purposes. The influence of liquid manure on soil OC stocks has been less studied and was found to be more variable than that of solid manure. In addition, only a few studies have analyzed the effects of animal manure on stable fractions of soil OC. Our objective was to quantify OC in the whole soil and in specific physical fractions of organic matter (free and intra-aggregate light fractions, and sand and silt + clay-size heavy fractions) within a 0–50 cm soil profile after 17 years of applications of liquid dairy manure (LDM) and mineral fertilizer on a perennial grass sward. The mineral fertilizer and LDM were applied at nominally 200 and 400 kg mineral-N ha−1 year−1 (low and high rates, respectively) to tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb. var. Festorina), grown on a Monroe silt in a maritime climate near Agassiz, British Columbia, Canada. The LDM applications provided an average of 3.8 and 7.3 Mg C ha−1 year−1 for the low and high rates, respectively. The whole-soil OC stock was significantly higher in the top 20 cm of soils amended with LDM than either soils with mineral fertilizer or unamended soils. There were no differences in OC below 20 cm, which may be linked to the absence of C transfer at depth, or to an insufficient C input to offset a possible LDM-induced priming effect on soil OC mineralization. Compared to the unamended soil, mineral fertilization led to higher OC stocks in only the top 5 cm of soil. The application of LDM favored the incorporation of C into organo-mineral complexes rather than into the free light fraction of soil organic matter. The size separation of the heavy (density > 1.8 g mL−1) soil fraction revealed the presence of sand-size organo-mineral complexes that were responsive to treatments, and particularly to LDM application. This sand-size heavy fraction could be given greater scrutiny to detect more finely the effect of management changes on soil OC stocks.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 04/2015; 202.
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    ABSTRACT: Substituting a N-fixing legume for winter wheat has recently been suggested as a feasible method for mitigating N pollution from heavily-fertilized rice/wheat cropping system in the Taihu Lake Plain of southeast China. To understand the agronomic and environmental value of planting legumes instead of wheat, a 3-year consecutive field observation encompassing six crop seasons was conducted to compare crop yields, chemical N inputs, and N losses for three crop rotation systems; rice/wheat (the control), rice/fava bean, and rice/milk vetch. Our data showed that 52.6–59.5% of the annual N input could be saved in the two rice/legume rotations as a result of no N fertilization in the legume growing season and the replacement of 13.2–25.7% of chemical N by leguminous N via crop residue incorporation in the rice season. This reduction in N fertilizer not only produced equivalent or slightly more rice yields compared to the control, but also reduced N loss by half. In terms of N loss, ammonia (NH3) volatilization during the rice season and N runoff in the winter season for the two rice/legume rotations were greatly reduced by 31.3–38.0% and 82.1–86.0%, respectively compared to the control. A decreasing trend was also found in N leaching and nitrous oxide (N2O) in both seasons, NH3 volatilization in the winter season, and N runoff in the rice season for the two rice/legume rotations. The preliminary economic evaluation of yield benefits, fertilizer costs, and environmental costs related to N losses suggested that a mixed rice/fava bean and rice/milk vetch crop rotation (50% of each type) could ensure farmers’ returns and achieve a half-maximum reduction in environmental risk. These results demonstrate that substituting winter grain/forage legumes for wheat may be a technically feasible, low-input solution to the N pollution problems in the intensive rice-based cropping systems in the Taihu Lake Plain.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 04/2015; 202.
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    ABSTRACT: Research into the impact of agricultural practices on plant symbionts is essential for understanding the factors that modulate plant community productivity and diversity. Although glyphosate is used worldwide as an herbicide, its effects on root symbionts under natural conditions have not been sufficiently studied. We performed a field experiment to evaluate the influence of glyphosate, used for promoting winter forage production, on the viability of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and rhizobium propagules and other ecosystem traits in native grasslands. The number of viable propagules was strongly reduced with a single application at the recommended dose. Spore viability reduction was dependent on AMF species. Furthermore, changes in plant community composition and soil salinity were detected, which may eventually influence these symbionts in the future. Considering the low nutrient availability and high root-symbiont dependency of several species with forage value, repeated applications might lead to a loss in the grassland diversity and productivity, decreasing livestock production. Application of sublethal doses of this herbicide could avoid these damages, although success in increasing winter forage production would be less. Our results are relevant for understanding the effects of glyphosate on non-target species and designing sustainable land management systems.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 04/2015; 202.
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    ABSTRACT: Efforts to maintain or increase food production in developed agriculture would be compromised if current high-intensity production was degrading supporting ecosystem services, such as the ability of soil to function. The link between cropping intensity, defined by pesticide and fertiliser applications, and soil biophysical status was examined at 70 sites in a high-yielding region of the UK, in which cropping sequences covering a wide range of intensity had diverged from a common low-intensity origin in the 1970s. Two sequences of still low or moderate intensity based on spring cereals or a low frequency of winter cereals formed comparators for three high intensity sequences based on winter wheat and potato which together were associated with adverse effects of −30% on soil carbon content in the upper soil layer (P < 0.001), −11% on soil water holding capacity (P < 0.01) and +15% on soil bulk density (P < 0.001). Negative effects were also found in some high intensity sequences on soil macroporosity and penetrometer resistance. Even in this high-yielding region, therefore, current forms of intensification are associated with adverse trends in soil condition that may be detrimental to future production. The effects of these trends in soil condition on agricultural output now need to be quantified, and the economic burden accounted for, if fields reduce their capacity to yield or need reparation to keep them productive.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 04/2015; 202.
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    ABSTRACT: It is commonly assumed that agricultural peatlands are net sources of CO2 to the atmosphere because of lowered water tables and intensive land management altering the balance of plant productivity and respiration. Yet actual farm-scale fluxes of CO2 have been infrequently quantified. We measured net ecosystem exchange of CO2 (NEE) using a permanent and a mobile eddy covariance tower installed over dairy farms with year-round rotational grazing on deep peats in New Zealand. The permanent tower was in place for one year and the mobile tower was deployed for periods of 3–4 weeks at three other farms on peat between spring and autumn. At all sites, grazing cycles caused large variations in pasture biomass and consequent daytime NEE and we accounted for these variations using an index of photosynthesising biomass (phytomass index, Lohila et al., 2004) automatically derived from daily CO2 flux measurements. We estimated annual CO2 loss of 190 gC m−2 yr−1 for the permanent site, which is in broad agreement with other agricultural peatland studies. Including other farm-scale exports of C, overall net ecosystem carbon loss estimated for the permanent site was 294 gC m−2 yr−1. Accounting for changes in phytomass index, daytime NEE was similar for permanent-mobile site farm pairings, except when there were very large differences in water table depths between farms in autumn. In contrast, night-time respiration losses were almost identical between farms even when water tables were markedly different, suggesting that spatial differences in NEE in these agricultural peatlands are caused by reduced photosynthesis in dry periods, due to plant water stress, rather than increased respiration. Comparisons between permanent and mobile towers appeared a useful approach for determining spatial variability of CO2 fluxes from peat soils. Taken together, our results suggested that the CO2 losses measured at the permanent site were representative of CO2 losses for farmed peats in the Waikato region when the water table was within ∼0.5 m of the surface. Where water tables were deeper net CO2 losses would be expected to be greater due to reduced pasture photosynthesis and production. Maintaining higher water tables might achieve dual benefits of increasing pasture productivity and reducing CO2 losses.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 04/2015; 202.
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    ABSTRACT: Liming is a common agricultural practice worldwide, used for increasing productivity in acid agricultural soils. Liming reduces Al saturation and toxicity and/or increases pH up to values where the availability of nutrients is higher. The effect of this practice on soil properties has been extensively studied, with focus of most studies upon pH, exchangeable cations and productivity. In turn, the effects of liming on soil organic C (SOC) stocks still remain poorly known. The net effect on SOC can be the result of several factors: first, liming increases the soil biological activity, thus favoring the mineralization of organic matter, which should result in CO2 losses and a decrease of the SOC stocks. Second, liming ameliorates soil structure, increasing the stability of clay assemblages and clay-organic matter bonds, which should bring an increase in SOC physical and physicochemical protection. Finally, as liming ameliorates soil conditions to plant growth, plant productivity increases and also the return of C inputs to soil, thus potentially increasing SOC concentrations. The net effect of these processes is not well understood yet. Still, some overall trends can be deduced from data currently available in the literature. Liming does modify SOC stocks, increasing them in most cases, what seems to be caused by higher C inputs to limed soils due to increased productivity. Reductions in SOC have also been reported, probably in connexion with increased mineralization, whereas the role of improved soil structure remains unclear. Overall, these insights are deduced from published data which are still scarce, so we encourage the scientific community to synthesize unpublished SOC data from existing in situ experiments, in order to enlarge the span of experimental conditions and gain knowledge about the role of such a widespread agricultural practice on SOC stocks.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 04/2015; 202.