Soil Carbon

Increasing the quantity of carbon stored in agricultural soils has the potential to offset emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, while soil carbon losses would further add to those emissions.

However, realising this mitigation potential is technically challenging when soil carbon stocks are already high (as they are in New Zealand), potential changes in soil carbon are small and spatial variability is high.

The current NZAGRC programme has three distinct components:

(1) testing specific management practices that may increase the long term soil carbon store in field situations;

(2) developing and using models to predict how a range of management practices may influence long and short tem soil carbon storage; and

(3) identifying those factors that influence the stability of current or newly added soil carbon.

We have also supported international work to map on farm soil carbon and will participate in the international research programme CIRCASA.

Principal Investigators

Dr David Whitehead, Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research (2010-present)
Professor Frank Kelliher, AgResearch (2010-2017)

Research Stories

Low spatial and inter-annual variability of evaporation from a year-round intensively grazed temperate pasture system

J. Pronger, D.I. Campbell, M.J. Clearwater, S. Rutledge, A.M. Wall, L.A. Schipper, Low spatial and inter-annual variability of evaporation from a year-round intensively grazed temperate pasture system, Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, Volume 232, 2016, Pages 46-58, ISSN 0167-8809,

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2016.07.011

Ecosystem scale measurements of evaporation (E) from intensively managed pasture systems are important for informing water resource decision making and validation of hydrologic models and remote sensing methods. We measured E from a year round intensively grazed temperate pasture system in New Zealand using the eddy covariance method for three years (2012-2014). Evaporation varied by less than 3% both spatially (770⿿783mm) and temporally (759-776mm) at an annual scale. The low spatial and temporal variation largely occurred because E was strongly controlled by net radiation (r2=0.81, p<0.01, daytime, half-hourly), which did not vary much between sites and years. However, E was strongly limited when volumetric moisture content (VMC) declined below permanent wilting point causing a strong reduction in the decoupling coefficient and an increase in the Bowen ratio. Grazing events appeared to have no effect on E during autumn and winter but reduced E by up to 5% during summer and spring while complete removal of vegetation during autumn herbicide application reduced E by ⿼30%. This implied that over the pasture regrowth period soil water evaporation (ES) could provide up to 70% of E relative to a vegetated site (during autumn) and, given that grazing events removed about 60% of leaf area, these findings suggest ES was likely able to compensate for decreased transpiration post-grazing. Agreement between measured E (EEC) and FAO-56 reference crop E (Eo) was good when soil moisture limitation was not occurring. However, during periods of soil moisture limitation Eo exceeded EEC and a correction factor was needed. We trialled the water stress coefficient (Ks) and a simple three bin VMC correction factor (KVMC) and found the KVMC approach worked better at a daily and monthly scale while both approaches worked well at an annual scale.


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