Climate change mitigation & Soil Carbon Sequestration

Soil organic carbon plays a big role in climate change. 

Soil organic carbon is crucial to soil health, fertility, ecosystem services, and food production. Soils with high carbon content are likely to be more productive and better able to filter and purify water. 

The impact of soil organic carbon loss

The degradation of one third of the world’s soils has released up to 78 Gt of carbon into the atmosphere. Further damage to soil carbon stocks through poor land management will hamper efforts to limit global temperature rise, to avoid increased floods, droughts and other negative climate change impacts.

With sustainably managing soils, we can mitigate climate change and improve food security.

Carbon sequestration, monitoring and maintenance in soils can enhance climate resilience, as a healthy amount of SOC can help plants cope. Soil rehabilitation in agricultural soils can remove carbon from the atmosphere. SOC sequestration is a slow and reversible process. SSM practices need to be adopted over the long-term. Governments now need to support land users to implement them.


In the framework of the EOM4SOIL project, CREA-PB researchers, asked to the visitors of the agricultural fair Fieragricola 2024, held in Verona (Italy): “Do you know what’s biochar?”. Farmers, farmers’ associations, agriculture enthusiasts, agricultural mechanics and floriculturists answered to the question. And they all answered “No”. 

Biochar is an agricultural amendment. It is the by-product of pyrolysis and gasification processes that produce energy from biomass. In Italy, biochar is studied since 20 years in agricultural research, but it is not yet known by farmers who are supposed to use it in the field. EOM4SOIL preject is working also to spread biochar knowledge among final users.


  • Carbon is sequestered in soil by plants through photosynthesis and can be stored as soil organic carbon (SOC).

  • Carbon sequestration secures carbon dioxide to prevent it from entering the Earth’s atmosphere.  

  • Improved agricultural practices can help mitigate climate change by reducing emissions from agriculture and other sources and by storing carbon in plant biomass and soils.  

  • EJP SOIL will contribute by developing new knowledge on carbon sequestration in agricultural soils under different conditions across Europe and its contribution to climate change mitigation.


Publications

2023


2022


2021


Policy briefs

  • When does soil carbon contribute to climate change mitigation? Carbon stock, carbon sink - are they the same thing? And does fixing C in the soil, for example by building up soil organic C, automatically lead to climate change mitigation? In public discussions about climate protection, many such concepts often get mixed up.

Sustainable environment, Soil Health, Ecosystem services & Biodiversity


Sustainable environment

Environmental agricultural sustainability is climate-smart sustainable management of agricultural soils to conserve natural resources and protect agricultural ecosystems to support health and wellbeing, now and in the future

Sustainable agriculture seeks to sustain farmers, resources and communities by promoting farming practices and methods that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities.

Sustainable agriculture causes healthy ecosystem services

Ecosystem goods and services produce the many life-sustaining benefits we receive from nature—clean air and water, fertile soil for crop production, pollination, and flood control. These ecosystem services are important to environmental and human health and well-being.

Unfortunately, human activities are destroying biodiversity and altering the capacity of healthy ecosystems to deliver this wide range of goods and services.


Agricultural ecosystems provide humans with food, forage, bioenergy and pharmaceuticals and are essential to human wellbeing. These systems rely on ecosystem services provided by natural ecosystems, including pollination, biological pest control, maintenance of soil structure and fertility, nutrient cycling and hydrological services. Agroecosystems produce a variety of ecosystem services, such as regulation of soil and water quality, carbon sequestration, support for biodiversity and cultural services.

Healthy soil, healthy life!

Soil health is defined as the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. Healthy soil gives us clean air and water, bountiful crops and forests, productive grazing lands, diverse wildlife, and beautiful landscapes.

Healthy soil is the foundation of productive, sustainable agriculture. Managing for soil health allows producers to work with the land – not against – to reduce erosion, maximize water infiltration, improve nutrient cycling, save money on inputs, and ultimately improve the resiliency of their working land.


Components of soil health

They include carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and water vapor. Due to respiration of soil microorganisms, the air in the soil has more carbon dioxide than the air we breathe.

Examples of management practices to improve soil health:

  1. Reduce Inversion tillage and soil traffic;
  2. Increase Organic Matter Inputs;
  3. Use Cover Crops;
  4. Reduce Pesticide Use and provide habitat for beneficial organisms- biodiversity;
  5. Rotate Crops;
  6. Manage Nutrients.

Soil management practices, cropping systems, and weather conditions influence soil health. A healthy soil that is well managed can increase soil water infiltration and storage, storage and supply of nutrients to plants, microbial diversity, and soil carbon storage.

Healthy soil

Healthy soil should be a nice, dark, black color. Soil with little to no life in it looks more like dirt: brown and dry. Poor soil will turn to brown mud when it gets wet. Healthy soil absorbs moisture beautifully and should not have a muddy feel.

Unhealthy soil

Unhealthy soil doesn't have the moisture and nutrients needed to thrive, which makes it dry, crumbling, and cracked. When you pick up the dirt, it might crumble quickly in your hands or be difficult to break apart. Proper watering and irrigation will improve the soil's condition in these instances.