Dr. Andrew MacDougall, an associate professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and his team have published two studies on farm management funded by the Food from Thought research program.
Th first study called “Soil nutrients increase long-term soil carbon gains threefold on retired farmland” performed in collaboration with the University of Minnesota, shows that adding nutrients to retired land with limited sandy soils increases soil carbon storage by three times.
The second called “Prospects for soil carbon storage on recently retired marginal farmland” compares whether farm management, soil type (clay versus sand), or soil nitrogen and phosphorus levels best predict soil carbon after ten years. Farm management wins hands-down.
The results of these studies are channeled directly to the land management efforts of ALUS farmers, who are using unproductive marginal lands to grow ecosystem services, including soil carbon. Most retirement efforts center on planting a permanent grass cover and leaving the area unmanaged. The studies show that the addition of nutrients by farmers can accelerate the rate of soil carbon accumulation on unproductive poor soils over time.
“Farm management struggles to balance the increasing need for food towards 2050, with accelerating environmental impacts. Farmland accounts for 15-25 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally, including carbon dioxide, leading to calls for farmers to increase GHG retention on their lands. Our research points towards management interventions that can increase soil carbon storage on farm landscapes,” said Dr. MacDougall.
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