Increasing your soil carbon levels

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  • We are now seeing the development of financial incentives for carbon sequestration, making it more important than ever to measure carbon levels in your soil
  • Philip Cosgrave, Country Grassland Agronomist at Yara answers questions about the best way to manage soil effectively to improve carbon levels

Q: Why is there a drive to capture carbon in soil?

“The idea is that to lower the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, we should increase the amount sequestered in the soil.”

Q: Does this have any benefits for the farmer beyond financial?

“Yes, absolutely. Capturing carbon in your soil will not only provide a positive environment benefit but simultaneously improve soil quality.”

Q: How can we effectively manage soil carbon levels?

“By carefully observing your inputs and losses. That’s the straight answer. Quite simply, if less carbon is being lost from the soil than the amount going in, your stored carbon should increase.”

Q: Are all soils generally the same when it comes to carbon capture?

“No. Some soils can store more carbon than others. Higher clay contents allow for more carbon storage because the clay particles protect organic matter by making it harder for micro-organisms to make contact and cause decomposition. Sandy soils contain less clay, so carbon turnover is much quicker. As a result, there will usually be lower stored carbon levels.”

Q: What are the main carbon inputs for soil?

“The main input is plant material, including roots, residues, root exudates and animal manure. Plants capture carbon from the atmosphere and use it to grow. Carbon also forms most of the plant’s mass. When a plant is excreted or incorporated, the carbon they contain is added to the soil’s carbon store.”

Q: Any other comments?

“Managing your soil carbon content isn’t just a positive environmental step, it’s one that will yield value for your farm. It’s worth looking into what your current situation is and remaining diligent. Remember: carbon benefits your soil, so you’ll also be strengthening one of your farm’s key assets.”

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