The amount of carbon stored in the Earth’s soil is much more than what is stored in the atmosphere. A significant portion of the carbon in soil is in organic form called soil carbon. Importantly, how quickly the amount of soil organic carbon can be built or lost is influenced by humans unlike inorganic carbon in soils.
In fact, since the advent of agriculture nearly 10,000 years ago, agriculture is responsible for discharge of significant amount of soil organic carbon into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide contributing to climate change.
Therefore, it is essential to quantify the amount of soil organic carbon in agricultural fields to observe the carbon cycle and develop sustainable management practices. This is to minimize release of carbon and seize carbon from the atmosphere to the soil to reduce or reverse the impact of agriculture on the climate.
Accurate and efficient estimation of soil organic carbon is essential, stated a research scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. For this, governments need to estimate soil organic carbon to develop sustainable management methods, and farmers need to estimate soil organic carbon to participate in emerging carbon credit markets.
Soil sampling by examination in the lab is the most traditional and reliable way to quantify soil organic carbon. But it is important to know which locations in the field need to be sampled. And the number of samples that need to be taken for accurate estimation.
Meanwhile, each additional soil core amounts to significant expense and labor, and uncertainties pertaining to optimizing of samples can lead to significant extra costs.
In a new publication of SMARTFARM Project of the U.S. Department of Energy, researchers evaluated strategies to estimate soil organic carbon.