Soil Carbon Sequestration and Trading

Dave Huggins, Claudio Stockle, David Brown and Russ Evans


Greater storage of soil carbon (C) often occurs when agricultural fields are converted from intensive tillage to no-tillage.  Atmospheric carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, provides the source of C for increases in soil organic matter storage (soil organic matter is about 58% C).  Consequently, capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transforming it into soil organic matter through the use of no-till farming has been proposed as a strategy for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide.  Currently, markets are developing for C trading in the U.S. and increases in soil C storage may return economic value to farmers.  The ability to market soil C storage will likely depend on several factors including: (1) measurement technologies to assess levels of soil carbon in the field; and (2) methods to evaluate and predict farming practice effects on changes in soil C storage over time.  Current research at WSU and USDA-ARS addresses these factors.

Soil Carbon storage in the top 4 inches (10 cm) of soil
at the WSU Cook Agronomy Farm.