Root and Shoot Contribution to Carbon and Nitrogen Inputs in the Topsoil Layer in No-Tillage Crop Systems under Subtropical Conditions
ABSTRACT Recycling of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) from plants into soils is decisive for maintaining soil organic matter and soil fertility. Therefore, we quantified plant biomass and C and N in the shoots and roots from the topsoil layer for a wide range of annual crops grown under subtropical conditions. We grew 26 species, 13 main crops, and 13 cover crops, in the field in standard sowing arrangements. Root biomass was recovered from the 0.00-0.20 m soil layer at flowering, and shoot biomass was measured at flowering for all crops and at maturity only for the main crops. Root dry matter (DM) exhibited an average of 14.9 ± 5.7 % of the total shoot biomass at flowering, and the mean shoot DM to root DM ratio was 6.9 (2.8-15.0) for the 26 crops considered. Leguminous species had less root DM (0.5 to 1.0 Mg ha-1) than grass species (1.1 to 2.3 Mg ha-1). The shoot C to root C ratio varied consistently with DM, while the root N to shoot N ratio varied considerably among species. Proportionally more biomass, C, and N was allocated to the root systems of grasses (Poaceae species) than non-grass species (especially Fabaceae species). The findings of this study contribute to designing rotations to include species that promote cycling of N and have high potential for adding C to the soil through roots. In this sense, the use of intercropped grasses and legumes is a promising strategy, especially for cover crops.