Extending grassland age for climate change mitigation and adaptation on clay soils

G.L. Iepema*, Nyncke J. Hoekstra, R.G.M. de Goede, J. Bloem, L. Brussaard, Nick van Eekeren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Permanent grassland soils can act as a sink for carbon and may therefore positively contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation. We compared young (5–15 years since latest grassland renewal) with old (>20 years since latest grassland renewal) permanent grassland soils in terms of carbon stock, carbon sequestration, drought tolerance and flood resistance. The research was carried out on marine clay soil at 10 dairy farms with young and old permanent grassland. As hypothesized, the carbon stock was larger in old grassland (62 Mg C ha−1) topsoil (0–10 cm) than in young grassland topsoil (51 Mg C ha−1). The carbon sequestration rate was greater in young (on average 3.0 Mg C ha−1 year−1) compared with old grassland (1.6 Mg C ha−1 year−1) and determined by initial carbon stock. Regarding potential drought tolerance, we found larger soil moisture and soil organic matter (SOM) contents in old compared with young grassland topsoils. As hypothesized, the old grassland soils were more resistant to heavy rainfall as measured by water infiltration rate and macroporosity (at 20 cm depth) in comparison with the young grassland soils. In contrast to our hypothesis we did not find a difference in rooting between young and old permanent grassland, probably due to large variability in root biomass and root tip density. We conclude that old grasslands at dairy farms on clay soil can contribute more to the ecosystem services climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation than young grasslands. This study shows that under real farm conditions on a clay topsoil, carbon stock increases with grassland age and even after 30 years carbon saturation has not been reached. Further study is warranted to determine by how much extending grassland age can contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Soil Science
Issue number1
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • carbon sequestration
  • dairy
  • ecosystem services
  • permanent grassland
  • soil carbon stock
  • water infiltration


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