Researchers have long been examining how soil differs between organic and conventional farming. A new study published by scientists at the University of Maryland and nonprofit organization The Organic Center is looking into soil carbon capture in organic vs traditional farming.
The study found that the amount of carbon captured in soil increased by 18% when applying best management organic farming practices. The amount of microbial biomass carbon storage also went up by 30%.
“The study is the first of its kind – looking within organic management to not only highlight the areas where organic excels at locking greenhouse gas in the soil, but also identifying the areas that have the biggest beneficial impact, enabling organic growers to maximize their ability to fight climate change,” said Dr. Jessica Shade, director of science programs for The Organic Center.
Best Management Practices For Carbon Capture In Farming
The research explains and evaluates the best management practices (BMPs) within organic farming and the health benefits on soil of adopting them. It fills knowledge gaps and proposes direction on future organic agriculture research.
It also focuses on two principal soil health metrics: soil organic carbon (SOC) and microbial biomass carbon (MBC) concentrations. The best management organic farming practices include conservation tillage, cover crops, compost and manure amendments.
The study finds that adding compost and manure has the biggest and fastest impact. It increases carbon capture in soil by 24%. Conservation tillage practices show a net positive effect on soil health with a 14% rise in depth-weighted SOC concentrations.
Cover cropping increases SOC concentrations significantly after 5 years of its adoption. That is an indication that the soil health benefits from organic best management practices need long-term adoption to achieve agricultural sustainability.
The study also confirms what has been known before, i.e. fertilizers in conventional farming are responsible for 75% of greenhouse gas emissions of food crop production. Organic farming is the most promising agricultural system that allows crops to increase the capture of carbon in soil depths.
Making some amendments within the agriculture industry could ultimately be a way of mitigating carbon emissions. Sequestering CO2 with the power of healthy soil could curb GHGs while providing people with the positive benefits of organic eating.