Long-Term Trends in Nitrous Oxide Emissions, Soil Nitrogen, and Crop Yields of Till and No-Till Cropping Systems


No-till cropping can increase soil C stocks and aggregation but patterns of long-term changes in N2O emissions, soil N availability, and crop yields still need to be resolved. We measured soil C accumulation, aggregation, soil water, N2O emissions, soil inorganic N, and crop yields in till and no-till corn–soybean–wheat rotations between 1989 and 2002 in southwestern Michigan and investigated whether tillage effects varied over time or by crop. Mean annual NO3− concentrations in no-till were significantly less than in conventional till in three of six corn years and during one year of wheat production. Yields were similar in each system for all 14 years but three, during which yields were higher in no-till, indicating that lower soil NO3− concentrations did not result in lower yields. Carbon accumulated in no-till soils at a rate of 26 g C m−2 yr−1 over 12 years at the 0- to 5-cm soil depth. Average nitrous oxide emissions were similar in till (3.27 ± 0.52 g N ha d−1) and no-till (3.63 ± 0.53 g N ha d−1) systems and were sufficient to offset 56 to 61% of the reduction in CO2 equivalents associated with no-till C sequestration. After controlling for rotation and environmental effects by normalizing treatment differences between till and no-till systems we found no significant trends in soil N, N2O emissions, or yields through time. In our sandy loam soils, no-till cropping enhances C storage, aggregation, and associated environmental processes with no significant ecological or yield tradeoffs.


Soil Biogeochemistry and Microbial Ecology

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Journal of Environmental Quality



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