New method has promise for accurate, efficient soil carbon estimates

A bare-soil field with two farm vehicles and two people standing nearby
Research Technician Michael Douglass and Postdoctoral Researcher Nan Li conducting deep soil coring for quantifying soil organic carbon stocks on a farm in Piatt County, Ill. Credit: Dan Schaefer

Earth’s soil contains large stocks of carbon — even more carbon than in the atmosphere. A significant portion of this soil carbon is in organic form (carbon bound to carbon), called soil organic carbon (SOC). However, SOC has historically been greatly diminished by agricultural activity, releasing that carbon into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, contributing to climate change.

To monitor and sustainably manage SOC stocks under agricultural land use, an accurate way to measure SOC is essential. However, current methods of accurately estimating SOC are resource- and cost-intensive. In their new study, published in Geoderma, Agroecosystem Sustainability Center (ASC) and ACES researchers tested a new sampling method in hopes of improving the ability to estimate SOC stocks.

Read more from the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment.