Growing Returns

Selected tag(s): carbon sequestration

Two ways to improve soil carbon measurement

Farmer checking soil health with their hands.

Carbon markets and carbon monitoring programs track changes in cropland soil carbon stock over time to determine how agricultural management practices impact carbon storage in soil.

Soil carbon stock is typically measured by taking soil samples prior to the adoption of a new farming practice, followed by additional sampling after the practice has been in effect for several years.

However, commonly used methods to measure soil carbon stocks may not accurately capture how that carbon is changing over time, potentially undermining important mitigation efforts.

We need scientifically robust and accessible ways to measure soil carbon to ensure that different practice changes deliver reliable results. New research from Environmental Defense Fund highlights two best practices for measuring carbon in soil.

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Monarch butterflies are migrating in large numbers, with support from some unlikely allies

Monarch butterflies fueled on recently planted prairie habitat on hog farms in Missouri this summer before beginning their annual fall migration south.

You may have noticed more monarch butterflies than usual this year. There’s a reason for that.

Researchers are finding that monarch populations are at the fourth highest level since 1993 – making this year’s population currently migrating south for the winter one of the highest of the past 25 years.

That’s great news for the beloved orange and black butterfly, which has faced a 95 percent population decline since the 1980s. This dramatic loss has been driven largely by increased applications of herbicides across the agricultural landscape, and additional threats posed by extreme weather and climate change.

But citizens, conservationists and even some forward-thinking companies are highly motivated to help recover the monarch before it’s too late.

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How agriculture can help drive a low-carbon economy

Reducing methane emissions from cows is a step in the right directionThe White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) recently released an intriguing report on how the United States can transition to a low-carbon economy by 2050 while continuing economic growth. The report gives a starring role in this job to agricultural lands.

Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization” outlines a 3-pronged strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent while accelerating job-creating innovation. Calling each strategy “critical,” CEQ first lists the familiar call to transition to renewable and low carbon forms of energy.

The second key strategy, however, is less often discussed: the potential of cropland and grassland soils, as well as forests, to store and sequester hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 annually. The report – informed by decades of scientific research – describes the opportunities to explore in this area. Read More »

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New USDA roadmap a breakthrough for farmers and climate mitigation

womanThe U.S. Department of Agriculture just published an important roadmap for America’s farmers and ranchers to measure their greenhouse gas emissions and evaluate opportunities for reducing them.

Previously, insufficient data and lack of scientific consensus have impeded natural resource stewards from calculating GHG fluxes from management practices – especially since biological systems are dynamic and complex. But the new Greenhouse Gas Report provides thorough guidelines for understanding how different management practices influence GHG emissions on farms, ranches and forests.

This is a major breakthrough in mitigating the impacts of climate change on working lands. By helping landowners better understand their impacts, farmers, ranchers and forest owners will be better equipped to calculate their emissions and account for these impacts through voluntary participation in GHG mitigation or carbon sequestration projects across the country.

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