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Exports and inputs of organic carbon on agricultural soils in Germany

The quantity and quality of organic carbon (Corg) input drive soil Corg stocks and thus fertility and climate mitigation potential of soils. To estimate fluxes of Corg as net primary production (NPP), exports, and inputs on German arable and grassland soils, we used field management data surveyed within the Agricultural Soil Inventory (n = 27.404 cases of sites multiplied by years). Further, we refined the concept of yield-based Corg allocation coefficients and delivered a new regionalized method applicable for agricultural soils in Central Europe. Mean total NPP calculated for arable and grassland soils was 6.9 ± 2.3 and 5.9 ± 2.9 Mg Corg ha-1 yr-1, respectively, of which approximately half was exported. On average, total Corg input calculated did not differ between arable (3.7 ± 1.8 Mg ha-1 yr-1) and grassland soils (3.7 ± 1.3 Mg ha-1 yr-1) but Corg sources were different: Grasslands received 1.4 times more Corg from root material than arable soils and we suggest that this difference in quality rather than quantity drives differences in soil Corg stocks between land use systems. On arable soils, side products were exported in 43% of the site * years. Cover crops were cultivated in 11% of site * years and contributed on average 3% of the mean annual total NPP. Across arable crops, total NPP drove Corg input (R2 = 0.47) stronger than organic fertilization (R2 = 0.11). Thus, maximizing plant growth enhances Corg input to soil. Our results are reliable estimates of management related Corg fluxes on agricultural soils in Germany.



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