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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-509
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-509
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 09 Jan 2020

Submitted as: research article | 09 Jan 2020

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).

The soil organic carbon stabilization potential of old and new wheat cultivars: a 13CO2 labelling study

Marijn Van de Broek1,*, Shiva Ghiasi2,*, Charlotte Decock1,3, Andreas Hund4, Samuel Abiven5, Cordula Friedli4,5, Roland A. Werner2, and Johan Six1 Marijn Van de Broek et al.
  • 1Sustainable Agroecosystems group, Department of Environmental Systems Science, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
  • 2Grassland Sciences group, Department of Environmental Systems Science, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
  • 3California State University, San Luis Obispo, CA, USA
  • 4Group of Crop Science, Department of Environmental Systems Science, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
  • 5Department of Geography, University of Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
  • *These authors contributed equally to this work.

Abstract. Over the past decades, average global wheat yields have increased by about 250 %, mainly due to the cultivation of high-yielding wheat cultivars. This selection process not only affected aboveground parts of plants, but in some cases also reduced the root biomass, with potentially large consequences for the amount of organic carbon (OC) transferred to the soil. To study the effect of wheat breeding for high-yielding cultivars on subsoil OC dynamics, two old and two new wheat cultivars from the Swiss wheat breeding program were grown for one growing season in 1.5 m-deep lysimeters and pulse-labelled with 13CO2, to quantify the amount of assimilated carbon that was transferred belowground and potentially stabilized in the soil. The results show that although the old wheat cultivars with higher root biomass transferred more assimilated carbon belowground compared to more recent cultivars, no significant differences in net soil organic carbon (SOC) stabilization were found between the different cultivars. As a consequence, the long-term effect of wheat cultivar selection on SOC stocks will depend on the amount of root biomass that is stabilized in the soil. Our results suggest that the process of wheat selection for high-yielding cultivars resulted in lower amounts of belowground carbon translocation, with potentially important effects on SOC stocks. Further research is necessary to quantify the long-term importance of this effect.

Marijn Van de Broek et al.
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Short summary
Four wheat cultivars were labeled with 13CO2 to quantify the effect of rooting depth and root biomass on soil carbon stabilization. We found no clear trend between the time of cultivar development and the amount of soil carbon inputs that was stabilized. Therefore, the hypothesis that wheat cultivars with a larger root biomass and deeper roots would promote carbon stabilization was rejected. The amount of root biomass that will be stabilized in the soil on the long term is, however, unknown.
Four wheat cultivars were labeled with 13CO2 to quantify the effect of rooting depth and root...
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