In February, the USDA announced they will spend $1 billion on farmers, ranchers and landowners to invest in practices which contribute to curbing greenhouse gas emissions and store carbon. The goal is to support those in agriculture and forestry who are eager to lead the way in implementing climate-smart solutions.
One of the key strategies that is being discussed is carbon sequestration in soil, which has the potential to improve farming sustainability as well as fight the worst impact of climate change. Does this initiative have a chance? Here’s what farmers need to know about carbon sequestration and how their soil conditioner might make the process easier.
Carbon Sequestration: What You Need to Know
What is carbon sequestration? It’s when CO2 is collected and stored in any source not in the atmosphere, which can range from trees and foliage to artificial storage tanks and rock formations deep underground. What often gets overlooked in the search for a carbon capture solution is the soil itself, which scientists are now revisiting to shine light on this overlooked process.
For decades, scientists hypothesized humus, organic compounds in soil formed by plant decomposition, promoted the deposition of carbon in the ground. Ongoing research has shown humus is broken down by microorganisms and enzymes faster than expected, releasing carbon back into the atmosphere in a little time. The element of good soil which restricts the release of greenhouse gases is sturdy soil structure.
Compare heavier clay soil and sandy soil for starters. The structure of clay allows for the soil to form aggregates which obstruct the movement of microbes, slowing the decomposition process in a way that sandier soil cannot. This is only one way to slow decomposition. Soil conditioners can improve the structure of low-grade soil by cultivating the right soil microbial communities which delay decay.
These microbes require an abundant source of fiber to thrive and multiply, which is exactly what the polysaccharides found in Ascophyllum nodosum can achieve. There are two primary benefits from this wealth of fiber:
- When there are larger soil microbial communities, the greenhouse gases and other unused organic materials that plants pass along through a process called rhizodeposition, which sequesters greater amounts of carbon.
- Eventually, when microbes die within a rich soil ecosystem, the remaining biomass acts as a sort of temporary barrier for other microorganisms, moderating the carbon released from decomposition.
How the Right Soil Conditioner Helps Soil Structure & the Climate
The recent research into soil structure suggests that a robust physical soil structure and healthy microbial community are key to better farming and manageable climate change. The polysaccharides found in seaweed soil conditioners like our Acadian Kelp™ products may be perfect to achieve both goals.
As soil microbes break down the polysaccharides in seaweed soil conditioners, nutrients are released and microbial populations thrive. This adds to the quality of the soil’s aggregate structures to better contain carbon within the ground. That’s a win-win for farmers and the climate.
Want to learn more about how a seaweed soil conditioner can help with carbon sequestration in soil as well as improving cropland? Reach out to a member of the Acadian Kelp™ team to talk.