Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 87, Issue 2, pp 175–186 | Cite as

Soil carbon, soil nitrate, and soil emissions of nitrous oxide during cultivation of energy crops

  • Hans J. HellebrandEmail author
  • Martin Strähle
  • Volkhard Scholz
  • Jürgen Kern
Research article


Carbon (C) sequestration and soil emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) affect the carbon dioxide (CO2) advantage of energy crops. A long-term study has been performed to evaluate the environmental effects of energy crop cultivation on the loamy sand soil of the drier northeast region of Germany. The experimental field, established in 1994, consisted of columns (0.25 ha each) cultivated with short rotation coppice (SRC: Salix and Populus) and columns cultivated with annual crops. The columns were subdivided into four blocks, with each receiving different fertilization treatments. The soil C content was measured annually from 1994 until 1997, and then in 2006. Soil N2O levels were measured several times per week from 1999 to 2007. Water-filled pore space (WFPS) and soil nitrate measurements have been performed weekly since 2003. Increased C stocks were found in SRC columns, and C loss was observed in blocks with annual crops. The soil from fertilized blocks had higher levels of C than the soil from non-fertilized blocks. SRC cropping systems on dry, loamy sand soils are advantageous relative to annual cropping systems because of higher C sequestration, lower fertilized-induced N2O emissions, and reduced background N2O emissions in these soils. SRC cropping systems on dry, loamy sand soils have a CO2 advantage (approximately 4 Mg CO2 ha−1 year−1) relative to annual cropping systems.


Annual crops Carbon sequestration rates Nitrous oxide emission Short rotation coppice Water filled pore space 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans J. Hellebrand
    • 1
    Email author
  • Martin Strähle
    • 2
  • Volkhard Scholz
    • 3
  • Jürgen Kern
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Technology Assessment and Substance CyclesLeibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering (ATB)PotsdamGermany
  2. 2.Department of Soil Science, Institute of EcologyTechnische Universität Berlin (TUB)BerlinGermany
  3. 3.Department of Post Harvest TechnologyLeibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering (ATB)PotsdamGermany
  4. 4.Department of BioengineeringLeibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering (ATB)PotsdamGermany

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