Vast areas of cropland in the southern half of the Ogallala aquifer region are transitioning from irrigated to dryland production. Recent interest in improving soil health and agroecosystem resilience has emphasized the need for conservation systems that increase soil organic carbon that do not negatively affect crop yield. In semiarid drylands, carbon inputs from crop biomass often limit agroecosystem carbon dynamics, nutrient cycling, and soil organic carbon storage. A study conducted in Clovis, New Mexico, evaluated carbon dynamics in five dryland cropping systems. The study found that conservation systems that included no-till, strip till, or cover crops stored up to 15% more soil organic carbon than conventional systems. Net ecosystem carbon balance was positive with cover cropping. Reducing tillage and diversifying cropping systems by including cover crops have the potential to benefit dryland cropping systems.
Publication: Thapa, V.R., R. Ghimire, B. D. Duval, and M.A. Marsalis (2019). Conservation Systems for Positive Net Ecosystem Carbon Balance in Semiarid Drylands. Agroecosystems, Geosciences, and Environment. Volume 2 (1) 1-8.