Sep 14, 2022
Climate change study looks at soil management

A global collaboration to develop and implement climate-smart farming solutions, is supporting a study at The Ohio State University that looks at the potential of soil management practices to mitigate climate change.

The group, AgMission, includes founding partners PepsiCo, McDonald’s USA and The Nature Conservancy. Rattan Lal, OSU distinguished professor of soil science and director of OSU’s Rattan Lal Center for Carbon Management and Sequestration, chairs the study, “Enhanced Soil Carbon Farming as a Climate Solution.” The center is based at OSU’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Allison Thomson

“The disruption by climate change is the most urgent challenge to global food systems and agriculture,” Allison Thomson, AgMission program director, said in a news release. “Enhancing soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks on croplands, grasslands and rangelands is an important strategy that can help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and improve land and production system resiliency at the same time

Carbon farming optimizes carbon capture by implementing practices that are known to improve the rate at which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and stored in plant material or soil organic matter.

Current knowledge on carbon farming is primarily based either on simulation modelling or on data from a limited number of field experiments. Furthermore, knowledge gaps exist on how projected climate extremes will impact SOC sequestration, crop productivity, agricultural GHG emissions and soil health across diverse landscapes.

The study is focusing on field research in specific geographies of the United States: the Midwest, the Plains, the West and the southeastern US. The Ohio State University researchers and collaborating institutions are collecting on-farm data from croplands, grasslands and rangelands. On-farm research offers the opportunity to study the impacts on SOC from fully implemented systems in terms of scale, adoption of management approaches and constraints faced by farm managers, growers and ranchers.

The resulting output will be anonymized on-farm data from SOC-enhancing practices using a process that calculates a unique baseline for different geographies.

“By increasing carbon sequestration on depleted and degraded agricultural lands, we can improve our soil and food system while restoring the environment,” Lal, principal investigator of this project and 2020 World Food Prize awardee for his decades of research on how soil health impacts crop productivity, said in the release. “This project will provide the needed tools and data to help farms across the United States and around the world reach their full potential as a carbon sink and be part of the solution to combatting climate change and advancing the Sustainable Development Goals of the U.N.”

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) and the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) established AgMission to unlock agriculture’s potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Agricultural research and data are critical to this solution, and AgMission’s strategy envisions solutions that harness data and farmer insights to empower research.

Through FFAR, AgMission is awarding $5 million to The Ohio State University to conduct this research, which is being matched by additional funders for a $15 million project investment. Co-sponsors and collaborators of this study include Bayer U.S. – Crop ScienceCortevaMichigan State UniversityMicrosoftKansas State UniversitySandia National LaboratoriesUtah Department of Agriculture & Food and the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

This project will generate much needed knowledge on how to strengthen the adoption of SOC-enhancing practices by farmers and ranchers, and how to increase the recognition of the importance of those practices by the private sector, policy makers and the general public.

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