At AgroCares, we develop innovative soil testing solutions and we see rising interest in Carbon monitoring in soils. Why is it important to measure Soil Organic Carbon? Below are four reasons to explain this trend.
Carbon gives structure and life to the soil and is essential for nutrient retention
Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) is considered the most essential parameter for healthy soil. It is the “glue and sponge” of the soil as it sticks together soil aggregates, adsorbs and desorbs nutrients, and gives habitat and energy to soil micro-organisms. Crops do not take up carbon from the soil (they absorb carbon from the atmosphere) and as such carbon (C) is not an essential nutrient. Still, it is essential and without SOC crops do not grow.
Carbon is a key indicator for soil water holding capacity
The capacity of soils to hold water is crucial for plant growth at the field level and can be decisive for flood control at the landscape level. Moreover, an increase in SOC content in soils most often results in an increase in soil water holding capacity. Of course, the relationship between soil water holding capacity and SOC content is strongly affected by the soil texture and there are specific cases where this trend is not reproducible. In general, measuring your SOC content will give you a better idea of where your soil stands, and correcting a low SOC content will improve the capacity of your soil to retain water for your crops.
Soil Organic Carbon plays a crucial role in the fight against climate change.
Climate change is often seen as something that occurs in the atmosphere. Not so many people know that soil is a vital element of the climate system. Yet, the soil is the second-largest carbon store, or ‘sink’, after the oceans. Soil carbon sequestration is seen as one of the most promising mitigation measures to combat climate change. The FAO (2017) estimated that soils can sequester more than 10% of the global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
However, at the same time, land-use changes and agriculture are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Land-use changes account for more than 10% of the global greenhouse gas emissions and mainly refer to drainage of peatland and transforming forests into arable lands. Agriculture also accounts for more than 10% of the global GHG emission mainly through emissions from livestock and fertilizer application. Hence, the paradoxical situation of climate change and the soil is that soil is both a source and a solution for climate change.
Realizing the soils’ potential to combat climate change demands innovations that decrease emissions from soils and sequester carbon at the same time, whilst respecting the numerous and complex soil processes. To understand the net effect of these innovations careful monitoring and therefore SOC measurements are essential.
SOC importance is recognized throughout history
SOC positive effects on crop growth were already recognized by the first agricultural dwellers ever who applied slash and burn techniques to release nutrients through mineralization from organic sources. Also, in later times, soils were amended with organic city wastes to increase the fertility of the soil. Nowadays, organic carbon receives renewed attention from movements like agroecology, biological agriculture, regenerative agriculture, permaculture, etc. At the same time, you will not find a single conventional farmer who would deny the positive effects of soil organic carbon on chemical, physical, and biological soil health.
Interested in measuring Soil Organic Carbon? Check out our new Carbon Monitor application here and contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org to get a demo.