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Soil organic carbon (SOC) was studied at 0–45 cm depth after 28 years of cropping with arable and mixed dairy rotations on a soil with an initial SOC level of 2.6% at 0–30 cm. Measurements included both carbon concentration (SOC%) and soil bulk density (BD). Gross C input was calculated from yields. Averaged over all systems, topsoil SOC% declined significantly (−0.20% at 0–15 cm, p = 0.04, −0.39% at 15–30 cm, p = 0.05), but changed little at 30–45 cm (+0.11%, p = 0.15). Declines in topsoil SOC% tended to be greater in arable systems than in mixed dairy systems. Changes in BD were negatively related to those in SOC%, emphasizing the need to measure both when assessing SOC stocks. The overall SOC mass at 0–45 cm declined significantly from 98 to 89 Mg ha−1, representing a loss of 0.3% yr−1 of the initial SOC. Variability within systems was high, but arable cropping showed tendencies of high SOC losses, whilst SOC stocks appeared to be little changed in conventional mixed dairy with 50% ley and organic mixed dairy with 75% ley. The changes were related to the level of C input. Mean C input was 22% higher in mixed dairy than in arable systems.

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Soil compaction (SC) is a major threat for agriculture in Europe that affects many ecosystem functions, such as water and air circulation in soils, root growth, and crop production. Our objective was to present the results from five short-term (<5 years) case studies located along the north–south and east–west gradients and conducted within the SoilCare project using soil-improving cropping systems (SICSs) for mitigating topsoil and subsoil SC. Two study sites (SSs) focused on natural subsoil (˃25 cm) compaction using subsoiling tillage treatments to depths of 35 cm (Sweden) and 60 cm (Romania). The other SSs addressed both topsoil and subsoil SC (˃25 cm, Norway and United Kingdom; ˃30 cm, Italy) using deep-rooted bio-drilling crops and different tillage types or a combination of both. Each SS evaluated the effectiveness of the SICSs by measuring the soil physical properties, and we calculated SC indices. The SICSs showed promising results—for example, alfalfa in Norway showed good potential for alleviating SC (the subsoil density decreased from 1.69 to 1.45 g cm−1) and subsoiling at the Swedish SS improved root penetration into the subsoil by about 10 cm—but the effects of SICSs on yields were generally small. These case studies also reflected difficulties in implementing SICSs, some of which are under development, and we discuss methodological issues for measuring their effectiveness. There is a need for refining these SICSs and for evaluating their longer-term effect under a wider range of pedoclimatic conditions.