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How does grazing livestock affect carbon cycling of a cropping system?

Introducing livestock in a cropping system creates more ways for carbon to flow and transform. Read on for a better understanding of just how livestock change soil carbon.

Soils & Policy #1: Soil Health Initiatives

Policies aimed at improving soil health have been on the books for decades. State-driven soil health initiatives are one that have helped preserve soil resources and sequestered carbon in the process. But what are their strengths, limitations, and future opportunities?

Can remote sensors measure soil carbon?

Not directly--you're still going to need field samples. But there are some ways that remote sensing can help with monitoring. Read on to find out how.

Can rangelands store soil carbon?

Nearly 30% of the entire land cover of the United States is rangeland. Finding ways to improve carbon sequestration in rangeland soils can boost soil health, improve farmer profits, and make great use of potential untapped carbon sinks

Can growing cover crops in corn systems increase soil carbon?

If every hectare of land across the globe included cover crops, we could sequester up to 192 million US tons of carbon every year. How can we get there?

Can plant breeding help store more soil carbon?

Plant breeders have made incredible improvements to crops, from improving yield to boosting resilience and increasing pest resistance. But can plant breeding improve soil carbon storage?

What is a carbon offset?

We'd love to say it's possible to completely cut greenhouse gas emissions. But industries like transportation and manufacturing will always produce some amount of greenhouse gases. Offsets are one way to help.

How deep is organic carbon stored in the soil?

Changing management practices can help sequester carbon in the soil and improve overall soil health. But how deep does that organic carbon go?

How is soil sampling changing?

The "gold standard" of soil sampling is getting physical samples from multiple spots throughout the field. But all that could be changing--watch Steven Hall explain why.

What’s the difference between total soil carbon and soil organic carbon?

Total soil carbon includes both organic and inorganic carbon. Soil organic carbon includes the once-living matter from plants, dead leaves, roots, and soil microbes, while inorganic carbon is mineral-based and much less responsive to management.

How is soil carbon measured, reported, and verified?

Measuring, reporting, and verifying soil carbon requires accurate collection of soil data, reporting in standardized units, and third-party checks.

What are the drivers of soil organic carbon storage?

After adding additional plant matter to the soil, the biggest driver of storing soil organic carbon is the activity of microorganisms like bacteria and fungi, followed by soil texture.

How do cover crops sequester soil carbon?

Cover crops provide an additional source of biomass to the soil. More biomass means more opportunities to sequester carbon!

How to Take Manual Soil Cores for Soil Carbon Measurement

Interested in finding out how much carbon is in your soil? One of the first things to tackle is taking manual soil cores.

How should you collect soil samples to calculate carbon stock?

Collect samples to measure organic carbon concentration, bulk density, and coarse fragments. Together, these three measures can help you accurately calculate soil carbon stock in your fields.

How do you calculate soil carbon stock?

Calculating soil organic carbon stock requires measures of soil organic carbon concentration of the soil, bulk density, and coarse fragment content.

Which agricultural practices sequester carbon at the lowest cost?

Implementing cover crops and moving to no-till can make the greatest impact at the lowest cost, although the amount of carbon sequestered or emissions reduced and cost of each practice varies by region.

What is the soil carbon pool?

A “carbon pool” is any part of the climate system with the capacity to store, accumulate, or release carbon, according to the European Union. The soil carbon pool includes all the carbon in the soil, but the size of the soil carbon pool can be changed depending on management.

Maximizing On-Farm Solar Energy Harvest with Cover Crops

Growing crops is all about making good use of solar energy. Though many farms only make use of the sun’s energy from about May through September, Wayne Fredericks maximizes his solar energy harvest with cover crops, improving his soil health in the process.

How do you measure soil health at scale?

If you care about something, you measure it. Just as doctors recommend annual checkups, soil scientists recommend measuring soil health. But it's one thing to take samples in a single field--how do you measure soil health at scale?

What are the challenges for MRV?

Carbon markets rely on accurate measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) of soil carbon to issue carbon credits. But tallying soil carbon can be tricky. How should we go about sampling soil for MRV? And what does it tell us?

What is agriculture’s role in global greenhouse gas emissions?

Agriculture is often cited as a primary source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but crop production and land use account for just over 13% of food-related GHG emissions globally. Altogether, food production in every stage accounts for 26% of global GHG emissions.

How does management impact soil health?

Healthy soils are teeming with life. Changing management practices to foster biological activity is the key to improving soil health.

How much farmland is eligible for reduced tillage or no-till?

139 million acres of farmland in the US are still eligible to change crop production practices to reduce tillage, according to United States Department of Agriculture data from 2016.

How do you measure soil carbon?

Agricultural soils hold great potential for sequestering carbon and improving soil health in the process. But how do you measure soil carbon?

How much carbon can the soil sequester?

The soil’s potential carbon capacity depends on soil type, climate, and management practices. No two soils will sequester carbon at the same rate or in exactly the same amount—different producers need to implement different practices depending on their land.

What are the benefits of increasing agricultural soil carbon?

Increased soil water storage, improved biological activity, better soil aggregation, improved yield--these are just a few of the benefits of increasing agricultural soil carbon.

How does carbon cycle through agricultural systems?

Carbon cycles through agricultural systems through plant photosynthesis, biomass decomposition, and animal production, with opportunities to improve carbon sequestration at each point in the cycle.

How does crop management impact carbon sequestration?

Management practices either improve or set back soil carbon sequestration, beginning with the soil and moving through crop production.

What is Decode 6?

Carbon and ecosystem markets are proliferating, but growers are reluctant to participate. Why? There is a lack of unbiased, science-based information, and no extensive, centralized education resource to which growers and their trusted advisers can turn. Decode 6 is here to help.

How does carbon get into the soil?

Sinking carbon into soil is a powerful tool in our toolbox to decrease or offset carbon emissions. But how does carbon get into the soil? And once it's there, how do we keep it there?

What is Decode 6?

Chris Boomsma, the Director of Science & Strategy for Decode 6, sat down to tell us: What is Decode 6?

Which practices reduce emissions and sequester carbon on the farm?

All aspects of crop production that involve keeping the soil covered, minimizing disturbance, and agronomic management can help sequester carbon and reduce emissions.

How do agricultural emissions compare to other sectors?

Compared to other sectors globally, food production (including retail, transport, processing, farming, and land use) accounts for 26% of all greenhouse gas emissions as of 2019.

What adds to agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in the US?

Soil management is responsible for over half the greenhouse gas emissions generated by agriculture in the United States. Enteric fermentation—or gases created by livestock digesting their food—account for another 27%, and manure management another 14%.

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