We compared four adjacent soil plots in an effort to determine the effect of land use on soil carbon storage. The plots were located at the High Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory near Sidney, Nebraska. We measured 14C, total carbon, total nitrogen and 137Ce to determine the size and turnover times of rapid and stable soil organic matter (SOM) pools, and their relation to land-use practices. Results were consistent with the model produced by Harrison, Broecker and Bonani (1993a) in that the 14C surface soil data fell on the time trend plots of world 14C surface soil data, indicating that the natural sod and non-tilled plots had a rapidly turning over SOM pool, comprising ca. 75% of surface soil carbon, and the tilled plots had a rapidly turning over SOM pool, comprising only 50% of surface soil carbon.