Agriculture’s wheel of fortune: Soil carbon sequestration

Environmental benefits of soil carbon sequestration are spokes that emanate from the carbon hub.

Soil quality and soil health are fast becoming trendy subjects in agriculture. There is a common understanding of the need to improve our soil for increased production, but as our climate changes, we are seeing more benefits to healthy soils that are rich in carbon.

Carbon in the soil has many environmental benefits. It can increase water holding capacity, improve water quality, improve soil tilth and structure and decrease soil compaction. All of these benefits allow the soil to withstand the variability that we have seen in our growing season the last few years.

Soil rich in carbon can withstand changes in soil quality caused by other forces. In the same vein, changes in soil structure have a great impact on carbon. Research by Donald Reicosky, Soil Scientist Emeritus USDAARS, has shown that there is a direct correlation between the loss of carbon and water in the soil as the degree of soil tillage increases. Therefore, the more tillage soil receives, the less carbon and water that soil will have. The devastation of tillage on the soil ecosystem can be described as a tornado, earthquake, tsunami, forest fire and hurricane all rolled into one event.

The Growing Michigan Agriculture Conference hosted by Michigan State University Extension on Jan. 24, 2013, at the Lansing Center will look at how carbon influences soil infiltration and water holding capacity. Reicosky is one of the featured speakers who will discuss research in carbon and how cropping systems impact soil and its ability to hold water. Register today for the Growing Michigan Agriculture Conference and find out how your farm and business can help your soil sequester carbon.

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