IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Sequestering carbon in soils of agro-ecosystems


  • Lal, R.


Soils of the world’s agroecosystems (croplands, grazing lands, rangelands) are depleted of their soil organic carbon (SOC) pool by 25–75% depending on climate, soil type, and historic management. The magnitude of loss may be 10 to 50tonsC/ha. Soils with severe depletion of their SOC pool have low agronomic yield and low use efficiency of added input. Conversion to a restorative land use and adoption of recommended management practices, can enhance the SOC pool, improve soil quality, increase agronomic productivity, advance global food security, enhance soil resilience to adapt to extreme climatic events, and mitigate climate change by off-setting fossil fuel emissions. The technical potential of carbon (C) sequestration in soils of the agroecosystems is 1.2–3.1billiontonsC/yr. Improvement in soil quality, by increase in the SOC pool of 1tonC/ha/yr in the root zone, can increase annual food production in developing countries by 24–32milliontons of food grains and 6–10milliontons of roots and tubers. The strategy is to create positive soil C and nutrient budgets through adoption of no-till farming with mulch, use of cover crops, integrated nutrient management including biofertilizers, water conservation, and harvesting, and improving soil structure and tilth.

Suggested Citation

  • Lal, R., 2011. "Sequestering carbon in soils of agro-ecosystems," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(S1), pages 33-39.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jfpoli:v:36:y:2011:i:s1:p:s33-s39
    DOI: 10.1016/j.foodpol.2010.12.001

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    File URL:
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John M. Antle & Roberto O. Valdivia, 2006. "Modelling the supply of ecosystem services from agriculture: a minimum‐data approach," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 50(1), pages 1-15, March.
    2. MacLeod, Michael & Moran, Dominic & Eory, Vera & Rees, R.M. & Barnes, Andrew & Topp, Cairistiona F.E. & Ball, Bruce & Hoad, Steve & Wall, Eileen & McVittie, Alistair & Pajot, Guillaume & Matthews, Rob, 2010. "Developing greenhouse gas marginal abatement cost curves for agricultural emissions from crops and soils in the UK," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 103(4), pages 198-209, May.
    3. Schneider, Uwe A. & Kumar, Pushpam, 2008. "Greenhouse Gas Mitigation through Agriculture," Choices: The Magazine of Food, Farm, and Resource Issues, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 23(1), pages 1-5.
    4. Uwe A. Schneider & Pete Smith, 2008. "Greenhouse Gas Emission Mitigation and Emission Intensities in Agriculture," Working Papers FNU-164, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised Jul 2008.
    5. Kosoy, Nicolás & Corbera, Esteve, 2010. "Payments for ecosystem services as commodity fetishism," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(6), pages 1228-1236, April.
    6. Piesse, Jenifer & Thirtle, Colin, 2009. "Three bubbles and a panic: An explanatory review of recent food commodity price events," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 119-129, April.
    7. Johannes Lehmann & John Gaunt & Marco Rondon, 2006. "Bio-char Sequestration in Terrestrial Ecosystems – A Review," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, vol. 11(2), pages 395-419, March.
    8. Searchinger, Timothy & Heimlich, Ralph & Houghton, R. A. & Dong, Fengxia & Elobeid, Amani & Fabiosa, Jacinto F. & Tokgoz, Simla & Hayes, Dermot J. & Yu, Hun-Hsiang, 2008. "Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change," Staff General Research Papers Archive 12881, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    9. repec:wbk:wboper:13404 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Pushpam Kumar & Uwe A. Schneider, 2008. "Greenhouse gas emission mitigation through agriculture," Working Papers FNU-155, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised Feb 2008.
    11. Karan Capoor & Philippe Ambrosi, "undated". "State and Trends of the Carbon Market 2008," World Bank Publications - Reports 13405, The World Bank Group.
    12. William R. Cline, 2007. "Global Warming and Agriculture: Impact Estimates by Country," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 4037, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Farrelly, Damien J. & Everard, Colm D. & Fagan, Colette C. & McDonnell, Kevin P., 2013. "Carbon sequestration and the role of biological carbon mitigation: A review," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 21(C), pages 712-727.
    2. repec:bla:afrdev:v:29:y:2017:i:s2:p:163-178 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Jayne, T.S. & Mason, Nicole M. & Burke, William J. & Ariga, Joshua, 2016. "Agricultural Input Subsidy Programs in Africa: An Assessment of Recent Evidence," Food Security International Development Working Papers 245892, Michigan State University, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics.
    4. Nath, Arun Jyoti & Lal, Rattan, 2017. "Managing tropical wetlands for advancing global rice production: Implications for land-use management," Land Use Policy, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 681-685.
    5. Jónsson, Jón Örvar G. & Davíðsdóttir, Brynhildur & Nikolaidis, Nikolaos P. & Giannakis, Georgios V., 2019. "Tools for Sustainable Soil Management: Soil Ecosystem Services, EROI and Economic Analysis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 157(C), pages 109-119.
    6. Getnet, Kindie & Mekuria, Wolde & Langan, Simon & Rivington, Mike & Novo, Paula & Black, Helaina, 2017. "Ecosystem-based interventions and farm household welfare in degraded areas: Comparative evidence from Ethiopia," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 154(C), pages 53-62.
    7. Jianzheng Li & Zhongkui Luo & Yingchun Wang & Hu Li & Hongtao Xing & Ligang Wang & Enli Wang & Hui Xu & Chunyu Gao & Tianzhi Ren, 2019. "Optimizing Nitrogen and Residue Management to Reduce GHG Emissions while Maintaining Crop Yield: A Case Study in a Mono-Cropping System of Northeast China," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 11(18), pages 1-16, September.
    8. Timothy Capon & Michael Harris & Andrew Reeson, 2013. "The Design of Markets for Soil Carbon Sequestration," Economic Papers, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 32(2), pages 161-173, June.
    9. Willenbockel, Dirk, 2014. "Reflections on the prospects for pro-poor low-carbon growth," MPRA Paper 69863, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Chennault, Carrie M. & Valek, Robert M. & Tyndall, John C. & Schulte, Lisa A., 2020. "PEWI: An interactive web-based ecosystem service model for a broad public audience," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 431(C).
    11. Jayne, Thomas S. & Mason, Nicole M. & Burke, William J. & Ariga, Joshua, 2018. "Review: Taking stock of Africa’s second-generation agricultural input subsidy programs," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 1-14.
    12. Lybbert, Travis J. & Sumner, Daniel A., 2012. "Agricultural technologies for climate change in developing countries: Policy options for innovation and technology diffusion," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 114-123.
    13. Wassenaar, T. & Doelsch, E. & Feder, F. & Guerrin, F. & Paillat, J.-M. & Thuriès, L. & Saint Macary, H., 2014. "Returning Organic Residues to Agricultural Land (RORAL) – Fuelling the Follow-the-Technology approach," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 60-69.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Isabel Teichmann, 2015. "An Economic Assessment of Soil Carbon Sequestration with Biochar in Germany," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1476, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    2. Powlson, D.S. & Gregory, P.J. & Whalley, W.R. & Quinton, J.N. & Hopkins, D.W. & Whitmore, A.P. & Hirsch, P.R. & Goulding, K.W.T., 2011. "Soil management in relation to sustainable agriculture and ecosystem services," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(S1), pages 72-87.
    3. Hennecke, Anna M. & Faist, Mireille & Reinhardt, Jürgen & Junquera, Victoria & Neeft, John & Fehrenbach, Horst, 2013. "Biofuel greenhouse gas calculations under the European Renewable Energy Directive – A comparison of the BioGrace tool vs. the tool of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 55-62.
    4. Mihaela Simionescu & Yuriy Bilan & Stanisław Gędek & Dalia Streimikiene, 2019. "The Effects of Greenhouse Gas Emissions on Cereal Production in the European Union," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 11(12), pages 1-24, June.
    5. Kim, Daesoo & Stoddart, Nick & Rotz, C. Alan & Veltman, Karin & Chase, Larry & Cooper, Joyce & Ingraham, Pete & Izaurralde, R. César & Jones, Curtis D. & Gaillard, Richard & Aguirre-Villegas, Horacio , 2019. "Analysis of beneficial management practices to mitigate environmental impacts in dairy production systems around the Great Lakes," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 176(C).
    6. Galdos, Marcelo & Cavalett, Otávio & Seabra, Joaquim E.A. & Nogueira, Luiz Augusto Horta & Bonomi, Antonio, 2013. "Trends in global warming and human health impacts related to Brazilian sugarcane ethanol production considering black carbon emissions," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 576-582.
    7. Steven M. Ramsey & Jason S. Bergtold & Jessica L. Heier Stamm, 2021. "Field‐Level Land‐Use Adaptation to Local Weather Trends," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 103(4), pages 1314-1341, August.
    8. Rico Kongsager, 2018. "Linking Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation: A Review with Evidence from the Land-Use Sectors," Land, MDPI, vol. 7(4), pages 1-19, December.
    9. Zhen, Wei & Qin, Quande & Wei, Yi-Ming, 2017. "Spatio-temporal patterns of energy consumption-related GHG emissions in China's crop production systems," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 274-284.
    10. Oliver Lazarus & Sonali McDermid & Jennifer Jacquet, 2021. "The climate responsibilities of industrial meat and dairy producers," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 165(1), pages 1-21, March.
    11. David Bryngelsson & Fredrik Hedenus & Daniel J. A. Johansson & Christian Azar & Stefan Wirsenius, 2017. "How Do Dietary Choices Influence the Energy-System Cost of Stabilizing the Climate?," Energies, MDPI, vol. 10(2), pages 1-13, February.
    12. Soy-Massoni, Emma & Langemeyer, Johannes & Varga, Diego & Sáez, Marc & Pintó, Josep, 2016. "The importance of ecosystem services in coastal agricultural landscapes: Case study from the Costa Brava, Catalonia," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 17(C), pages 43-52.
    13. Telmo José Mendes & Diego Silva Siqueira & Eduardo Barretto Figueiredo & Ricardo de Oliveira Bordonal & Mara Regina Moitinho & José Marques Júnior & Newton La Scala Jr., 2021. "Soil carbon stock estimations: methods and a case study of the Maranhão State, Brazil," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 23(11), pages 16410-16427, November.
    14. Ancuta Isbasoiu & Pierre-Alain Jayet & Stéphane De Cara, 2021. "Increasing food production and mitigating agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union: impacts of carbon pricing and calorie production targeting," Environmental Economics and Policy Studies, Springer;Society for Environmental Economics and Policy Studies - SEEPS, vol. 23(2), pages 409-440, April.
    15. Amanda Silva‐Parra & Juan Manuel Trujillo‐González & Eric C. Brevik, 2021. "Greenhouse gas balance and mitigation potential of agricultural systems in Colombia: A systematic analysis," Greenhouse Gases: Science and Technology, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 11(3), pages 554-572, June.
    16. Chen, Jiandong & Cheng, Shulei & Song, Malin, 2018. "Changes in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions of the agricultural sector in China from 2005 to 2013," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 748-761.
    17. Wang, Guangshuai & Liang, Yueping & Zhang, Qian & Jha, Shiva K. & Gao, Yang & Shen, Xiaojun & Sun, Jingsheng & Duan, Aiwang, 2016. "Mitigated CH4 and N2O emissions and improved irrigation water use efficiency in winter wheat field with surface drip irrigation in the North China Plain," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 163(C), pages 403-407.
    18. Saw Min & Martin Rulík, 2020. "Comparison of Carbon Dioxide (CO 2 ) Fluxes between Conventional and Conserved Irrigated Rice Paddy Fields in Myanmar," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(14), pages 1-19, July.
    19. Connor, Melanie & de Guia, Annalyn H. & Quilloy, Reianne & Van Nguyen, Hung & Gummert, Martin & Sander, Bjoern Ole, 2020. "When climate change is not psychologically distant – Factors influencing the acceptance of sustainable farming practices in the Mekong river Delta of Vietnam," World Development Perspectives, Elsevier, vol. 18(C).
    20. Franco-Luesma, Samuel & Álvaro-Fuentes, Jorge & Plaza-Bonilla, Daniel & Arrúe, José Luis & Cantero-Martínez, Carlos & Cavero, José, 2019. "Influence of irrigation time and frequency on greenhouse gas emissions in a solid-set sprinkler-irrigated maize under Mediterranean conditions," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 221(C), pages 303-311.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jfpoli:v:36:y:2011:i:s1:p:s33-s39. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Catherine Liu (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.