Why soil carbon monitoring is important for sustainable agriculture and climate resilience?
As we delve into the world of agriculture and its interaction with the climate crisis, an important perspective unfolds. Agriculture is both subject to adverse impacts of climate as well as a significant contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This dynamic provides a platform for constructive action driven by scientific exploration, data analysis, and a commitment to a more sustainable future. The facts are striking. Between 2000 and 2020, global on-farm emissions, which are connected to the production of crops and livestock, increased by 13% and reached a total of 7.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (Gt CO2 eq). In 2019, agriculture and other land-use activities accounted for 22% of the world's total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Notably, a significant portion of these emissions comes from methane produced during enteric fermentation, manure management, and rice cultivation.
Interestingly, a 2017 study estimated that with these farm management practices in place, global croplands have the potential to store an additional 1.85 Gt CO2 each year, as much as the global transportation sector emits annually. These figures communicate that in the world of agriculture and environmental care, the soil takes centre stage. It has a big impact on three important things: making soil healthier, tackling climate challenges, and improving crop growth. By keeping an eye on the carbon in the soil, we can enhance how soil works, reduce climate effects, and cultivate better plants.
At the same moment, the world's soils contain a larger amount of carbon than the combined total of carbon in its vegetation and atmosphere. Therefore, soil plays a vital role in the carbon cycle by storing organic carbon through the decomposition of plant matter and microbial activity.
There is a significant interest in increasing carbon content in soil due to its potential for mitigating climate change. A promising approach to do this is implementing regenerative farming practices, such as zero or reduced tillage, intercropping, introducing trees (agroforestry) and cover crops, crop rotation, etc. It is important that these practices are continuously maintained in order to retain the added carbon in the soil (permanence). For sequestered carbon to be eligible for trading in carbon markets, it has to be shown that the practices have been adopted actively and are additional to the business-as-usual scenario (additionality according to Oldfield et. al., 2021). Moreover, it is also important that the implementation of regenerative agricultural practices on one field does not result in the release of carbon, e.g., through deforestation, on another field nearby (leakage).
Soil carbon monitoring is a necessary step to enable sustainable agriculture and climate mitigation because it can ascertain the status and changes in soil carbon (additionality and permanence). These benefits demonstrate the effectiveness of soil carbon monitoring as a valuable practice that should be on the agenda of policymakers and land managers. Active participation in monitoring carbon levels in soils is essential for collectively mitigating the impacts of climate change. This approach offers the benefit of enhancing soil properties and fostering the overall health, resilience, and productivity of agroecosystems.
AgroCares provides a rapid and cost-effective way to measure soil organic carbon content. It addresses the concern of potential workload over time associated with measuring organic matter for carbon. AgroCares offers an opportunity to regularly conduct carbon monitor tests, measuring and remeasuring, which leads to consistent results regarding overall carbon level changes at the farm level. Furthermore, the peer-reviewed SoilCASTOR methodology incorporated in the Carbon Monitor Solution not only determines optimal sampling spots for rapid soil scanning but also computes carbon stocks in t/ha.
- Funderburg, E. (2020). The role of organic matter in soil. Stockfarm, 10(9), 31-33.
- E. Oldfield et al., “Agricultural soil carbon credits: Making sense of protocols for carbon sequestration and net greenhouse gas removals” (Environmental Defense Fund, 2021)
- Smith, P., Soussana, J. F., Angers, D., Schipper, L., Chenu, C., Rasse, D. P., ... & Klumpp, K. (2020). How to measure, report and verify soil carbon change to realize the potential of soil carbon sequestration for atmospheric greenhouse gas removal. Global Change Biology, 26(1), 219-241.
- Paustian, K., Collier, S., Baldock, J., Burgess, R., Creque, J., DeLonge, M., ... & Jahn, M. (2019). Quantifying carbon for agricultural soil management: from the current status toward a global soil information system. Carbon Management, 10(6), 567-587.
- Paustian, K., Lehmann, J., Ogle, S., Reay, D., Robertson, G. P., & Smith, P. (2016). Climate-smart soils. Nature, 532(7597), 49-57.
- Dhakal, S., Minx, J. C., Toth, F. L., Abdel-Aziz, A., Figueroa, M. J., Hubacek, K., ... & Diga, G. M. (2022). Emissions trends and drivers. In Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. IPCC: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
- 2022. World Food and Agriculture – Statistical Yearbook 2022. Rome.
- Zomer, R. J., Bossio, D. A., Sommer, R., & Verchot, L. V. (2017). Global sequestration potential of increased organic carbon in cropland soils. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 1-8.