Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Agriculture - Soil Science


Natural Resources Management


College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Charlotte Decock

Advisor Department

Natural Resources Management

Advisor College

College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Compost is commonly used as an organic amendment in cropping systems such as vineyards, and has been shown to be beneficial to carbon (C) sequestration and soil health. As perennial crops, grapevines have a larger potential for C sequestration than most crops. Yet, there is a lack of understanding regarding the relationship between compost application rate, the magnitude of C sequestration, and its environmental tradeoff in the form of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In the study, we investigated the effects of compost application rate on soil C sequestration, GHG emissions, crop growth, and overall soil health after two annual compost treatments at J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines, Paso Robles, CA. Compost was broadcasted to the entire plot area between harvest and the first precipitation in fall at the rate of 0 (control), 2, 4, and 6 tons/acre/year. Soil C sequestration, cumulative carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions and soil physical properties were assessed at two functional locations (tractor row and vine row) and three depth increments (0-15, 15-30, and 30-60 cm). Cover crop biomass was determined in spring before mowing, while clusters per vine, cluster weight and yield were determined each year at harvest. Although compost application did not significantly affect total soil C stocks, significant increases in early indicators of C sequestration such as permanganate oxidizable carbon (POXC), aggregate distribution, and aggregate C content in large macroaggregates without increasing C mineralization suggests that C input from compost increased C stabilization in soil. Cumulative GHG emissions were not significantly affected by compost application. Both CO2 and N2O emissions were higher in the vine row than the tractor row in the dry season, but the trend for CO2 emissions was the opposite in the wet seasons. Seasonal patterns of GHG emissions were likely due to differences in plant activity and irrigation between functional locations. The lower bulk density in topsoil than subsoil, and the higher water holding capacity and aggregate stability in tractor row topsoil than in the vine row demonstrates how high C content improves soil physical properties. Cover crop growth and grape yield components were unaffected by compost application. Based on our results, early signs of C sequestration and improvements on overall soil health can be achieved in a coarse-texture vineyard in the Central Coast region after annually applying compost at a rate between 2 and 6 tons/acre for two years, without increasing GHG emissions or affecting grape yield. Further investigation is recommended to study the potential synergistic effects between compost application and cover cropping in vineyards if both practices are implemented at the same time.