Soil organic carbon in cropping and pasture systems of Victoria, Australia Academic Article uri icon


  • Increasing soil organic carbon (SOC) storage in agricultural soils through changes to management may help to mitigate rising greenhouse gas emissions and sustain agricultural productivity and environmental conditions. However, in order to improve assessment of the potential for increasing SOC storage in the agricultural lands of Victoria, Australia, further information is required on current SOC levels and how they are related to environmental conditions, soil properties and agricultural management. Therefore, we measured stocks of SOC at 615 sites in pasture and cropping systems in Victoria, encompassing eight regions, five soil orders and four management classes (continuous cropping, crop–pasture rotation, sheep or beef pasture, and dairy pasture), and explored relationships between the C stocks and environment, soil and management. The results showed an extremely wide range in SOC, from 2 to 239 t C/ha (0–30 cm). Most of this variation was attributable to climate; almost 80% of the variation in SOC stock was related to annual rainfall or vapour pressure deficit (i.e. humidity). Texture-related soil properties accounted for a small, additional amount of variation in SOC. After accounting for climate, differences in SOC between management classes were small and often not significant. Management practices such as stubble retention, minimum cultivation, perennial pasture species, rotational grazing and fertiliser inputs were not significantly related to SOC stock. The relationships between SOC and environment, soil and management were scale-dependent. Within individual regions, the apparent influence of climate and soil properties on SOC stock varied, and in some regions, much of the variation in SOC stock remained unexplained. The results suggest that, across Victoria, there is a general hierarchy of influence on SOC stock: climate > soil properties > management class > management practices.


  • Robertson, F
  • Crawford, D
  • Partington, D
  • Oliver, I
  • Rees, D
  • Aumann, C
  • Armstrong, R
  • Perris, R
  • Davey, M
  • Moodie, M
  • Baldock, J

publication date

  • 2016