May 23, 2017

Soil as a Carbon Sink


Carbon sinks are natural systems that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thereby reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which have been identified as a factor in global warming. Carbon sinks tend to absorb—or “sequester”—a substantial volume of carbon dioxide while releasing a minimal amount.

Soil, along with oceans and forests, are the three largest carbon sinks on the planet. As a result, initiatives focused on continual improvement of soil quality are being viewed as an important strategy in addressing climate challenges.

“It’s becoming more clear that agriculture is about much more than simply growing an abundant supply of food,” said David Merrell, a St. Edward farmer and chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. “Our initiatives to continually improve soil health are also important to the health of our planet.”

David Merrell
Carbon is the main component of soil organic matter and helps give soil its water- retention capacity, its structure, and its fertility. Through photosynthesis, a plant draws carbon out of the air to form carbon compounds. What the plant doesn’t need for growth is exuded through the roots to feed soil organisms, whereby the carbon is “fixed” or stabilized.

Healthier soils with more organic matter and improved integrity have greater carbon sequestration capability. That’s why many scientists and environmentalists see soil management as a critical strategy in reducing greenhouse gases. See what you can do to improve your soil management.

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