Abstract:Conversion of arable land (maize) to pasture will affect the soil organic matter (SOM) content. Changes in the SOM content were studied using a size- and density-fractionation method and 13C analysis. Twenty-six years of maize cropping had resulted in a depletion of carbon stored in the macro-organic fractions (>150 µm) and an increase in the 250 µm), light (b.d. 150 µm) and light (b.d. 150 µm; b.d. >1.13 g cm-3) in the 0- to 20-cm layer was still 40–50% lower than in the continuous pasture plots. Average half-life times calculated from 13C analyses ranged from 7 years in the light fractions to 56 years in heavy fractions. Fractionation results and 13C data indicated that mechanical disturbance (plowing) during maize cropping had resulted in vertical displacement of dispersed soil carbon from the 0- to 20-cm layer down to 60–80 cm. Conversion of arable land to pasture, therefore, not only causes a regeneration of the soil carbon content, it also reduces the risk of contaminant transport by dispersed soil carbon.