There is little information available on the evolution and stratification of soil C content (SCC) at the medium- to long-term in semiarid vineyards with cover crops. The objective was to determine SCC at different depths in the medium term (5 and 8 years) in a semiarid vineyard with different cover crops. The field experiment was conducted on Typic Haploxerept soil with a loam texture, pH 8.2, situated in a vineyard (cv. Tempranillo) located in the La Rioja region (northeast Spain) on Miocene sandstones, siltstones, clays and marlstones. Two different soil managements were evaluated: conventional tillage (CT) and continuous cover crop of resident vegetation (RV). Soil samples were collected from four soil layers (at depths of 0-2.5, 2.5-5, 5-15, and 15-25 cm) in June 2009 and June 2012, 5 and 8 years respectively after cover crop establishment. The SCC was determined and the SCC variation with respect to tillage treatment was determined considering the percentage of soil < 2 mm and soil bulk density. The results showed that the greatest increase in SCC occurred at 0-2.5 cm soil depth, increasing less with depth. The SCC annual increment in the whole soil sampled (0-25 cm) was 2.78 Mg C ha-1 year-1 after 5 years and decreased to 1.98 Mg C ha-1 year-1 after 8 years of cover crop establishment. The lower SCC annual increase was not due to the maximum increase being reached in the whole of the sampled soil (0-25 cm). From 2009 to 2012, the SCC did not increase at the soil surface (0-2.5 cm), but did so in the subsurface zone (2.5-5 cm), although with an annual increment lower than that found at soil surface (0-2.5 cm). In conclusion, the steady state in SCC would not have been reached in the medium term (8 years) under cover crop, since there is still a increment of SCC in the subsurface layers.
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