Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



S.J. Ruis et al. Soil & Tillage Research 220 (2022) 105359.


© 2022 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Tillage intensity may differently impact gaseous losses of C and N to the atmosphere, but data from long-term experiments are relatively few. Yet, this information is needed to better understand C and N losses and gains in agricultural systems. The objective of this study was to determine how tillage intensity affects soil greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes (CO2, N2O, and CH4) by comparing experimental data from moldboard plow (MP), chisel plow (CP), double disk (DD), and no-till (NT) soils after 38–40 yr of management in a rainfed corn (Zea mays L.)- soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merr) cropping system. We also reviewed global literature to evaluate the impacts of tillage on soil GHG emissions. After 38–40 yr of management, CO2 fluxes decreased in this order: MP > CP ≈ DD > NT, indicating that as tillage intensity decreased, CO2 fluxes decreased. Indeed, daily CO2 fluxes were typically lower under NT than under MP and CP. Similarly, the overall cumulative CO2 fluxes across 26-mo of measurement were 1.4–1.8 times lower with NT than MP, CP, and DD soils. Also, MP soils had 1.3 times higher CO2 fluxes than CP and DD soils. These results are similar to those from our global literature review of 60 studies on CO2 fluxes. The reduction in CO2 fluxes in NT was likely due to a combination of increased residue cover, reduced soil temperature (r = 0.71; n = 12; p < 0.001), and increased water content (r = 0.75; n = 12; p < 0.001). Daily N2O and CH4 fluxes were highly variable; and cumulative fluxes across the 26-mo study were unaffected by tillage, mirroring findings of our literature review of 37 papers on N2O fluxes and 24 on CH4 fluxes. Overall, based on the data from both the long-term experiment and literature review, NT appears to be the best option to reduce losses of CO2 followed by reduced till (DD), but N2O and CH4 fluxes do not generally differ with tillage intensity.