Soil organic carbon sequestration in cotton production systems of the southeastern United States: a review

J Environ Qual. 2006 Jul 6;35(4):1374-83. doi: 10.2134/jeq2005.0150. Print 2006 Jul-Aug.


Past agricultural management practices have contributed to the loss of soil organic carbon (SOC) and emission of greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide). Fortunately, however, conservation-oriented agricultural management systems can be, and have been, developed to sequester SOC, improve soil quality, and increase crop productivity. Our objectives were to (i) review literature related to SOC sequestration in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) production systems, (ii) recommend best management practices to sequester SOC, and (iii) outline the current political scenario and future probabilities for cotton producers to benefit from SOC sequestration. From a review of 20 studies in the region, SOC increased with no tillage compared with conventional tillage by 0.48 +/- 0.56 Mg C ha(-1) yr(-1) (H(0): no change, p < 0.001). More diverse rotations of cotton with high-residue-producing crops such as corn (Zea mays L.) and small grains would sequester greater quantities of SOC than continuous cotton. No-tillage cropping with a cover crop sequestered 0.67 +/- 0.63 Mg C ha(-1) yr(-1), while that of no-tillage cropping without a cover crop sequestered 0.34 +/- 47 Mg C ha(-1) yr(-1) (mean comparison, p = 0.04). Current government incentive programs recommend agricultural practices that would contribute to SOC sequestration. Participation in the Conservation Security Program could lead to government payments of up to Dollars 20 ha(-1). Current open-market trading of C credits would appear to yield less than Dollars 3 ha(-1), although prices would greatly increase should a government policy to limit greenhouse gas emissions be mandated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / methods*
  • Carbon / metabolism*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Gases
  • Geography
  • Gossypium / growth & development*
  • Greenhouse Effect
  • Organic Chemicals / chemistry
  • Organic Chemicals / metabolism*
  • Soil / analysis
  • Southeastern United States
  • Zea mays / growth & development


  • Gases
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Soil
  • Carbon