BioEnergy Research

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 358–371 | Cite as

Crop Residue Removal for Bioenergy Reduces Soil Carbon Pools: How Can We Offset Carbon Losses?

  • Humberto Blanco-CanquiEmail author


Crop residue removal for bioenergy can deplete soil organic carbon (SOC) pools. Management strategies to counteract the adverse effects of residue removal on SOC pools have not been, however, widely discussed. This paper reviews potential practices that can be used to offset the SOC lost with residue removal. Literature indicates that practices including no-till cover crops, manure and compost application, and return of biofuel co-products increase SOC pools and may thus be used to offset some SOC loss. No-till rotations that include semi-perennial grasses or legumes also offer a promise to promote soil-profile C sequestration and improve soil resilience after residue removal. No-till cover crops can sequester between 0.10 and 1 Mg ha−1 per year of SOC relative to no-till without cover crops, depending on cover crop species, soil type, and precipitation input. Animal manure and compost contain about 15 % of C and thus their addition to soil can enhance SOC pools and boost soil biological activity. Similarly, application of biofuel co-products such as biochar, which contain between 45 % and 85 % of C depending on the feedstock source and processing method, can enhance long-term C sequestration. These mitigation strategies may maintain SOC pools under partial residue removal in no-till soils but are unlikely to replace all the SOC lost if residue is removed at excessive rates. More field research and modeling efforts are needed to assess the magnitude at which the different mitigation strategies can overcome SOC loss with crop residue removal.


Crop residue removal Bioenergy Soil carbon Cover crops Biochar Manure Compost No-till rotations Dedicated energy crops Switchgrass Perennial grasses 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agronomy, Agricultural Research Center-HaysKansas State UniversityHaysUSA

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