Sequestering carbon in soils of agro-ecosystems
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 50 tons C/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 1.2-3.1 billion tons C/yr. Improvement in soil quality, by increase in the SOC pool of 1 ton C/ha/yr in the root zone, can increase annual food production in developing countries by 24-32 million tons of food grains and 6-10 million tons 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.
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