Boosting soil carbon

Level of Expertise: Introductory/Overview,

Topics: Soil Health and Building Soil Carbon,

Today it’s getting more common to hear farmers refer to themselves as carbon farmers or to say they want to restore the soil carbon on their farm. This trend is being supported by an increasingly wide array of public and private sector payments for farming practices that put more carbon in the soil (a process called sequestering carbon). There are a significant number of practices that can boost soil carbon on farms. A partial list includes:

  • Cover crops and reduced soil disturbance, such as no-till or strip-till
  • Incorporation of livestock manure in various forms, including composted manure
  • Deep-rooted perennial grasses or woody plants that root deeply
  • High biomass crops with extensive root systems
  • Grazing pastures and cover crops, particularly with management intensive or rotational grazing
  • Developing healthier soils with more active microbial communities

Many of our agriculture soils in the U.S. have far less soil organic matter and soil carbon than at the time they were first tilled, often as little as half the original levels. Farmers can use the many programs now paying for carbon sequestration as part of their long-term strategy to develop a profitable and resilient farm for the future. Building soil carbon is also a good way to leave the land in better shape for the next generation.

Boosting soil carbon

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