(NAFB)--USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has developed the largest soil carbon dataset in the world to help producers and planners estimate the impacts of conservation practices on soil carbon levels. NRCS Acting Chief Jason Weller says it’s their obligation to equip landowners with the most up-to-date information and technical assistance to mitigate the impacts of climate change and help secure sustainable food production systems for the American people. Soil has tremendous potential to store carbon - which reduces the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. NRCS soil scientists took 148-thousand individual soil samples and evaluated them for carbon content. This Rapid Carbon Assessment dataset - according to USDA - serves as a baseline for the amount of carbon each soil type is holding. NRCS Soil Scientist Christopher Smith says this will allow for the targeting of the soils with the greatest potential to store additional carbon. Smith adds that planners can use models - where accuracy is enhanced by this data - to better predict the impact a conservation practice might have on enhancing the soil’s carbon content.
Several conservation practices help increase carbon storage in soil. New tools like COMET-Farm and the Agricultural Policy Environmental Extender - or APEX model - allow landowners to calculate how much carbon their conservation practices can remove from the atmosphere. COMET-Farm is a free online tool that allows producers to enter information about their farm or ranch management practices and receive general guidance on actions they can take to build carbon in their soil. NRCS conservation planners and private technical service providers plan to use APEX to assist in the proper management of nutrients to keep a balance between soil carbon gains, production goals and impacts on water quality.
These tools and the Rapid Carbon Assessment - according to NRCS Scientist Dr. Adam Chambers - open the door to new possibilities for producers. If carbon can be quantified, verified and then sold into carbon markets - he says it’s another potential revenue stream for producers.
Visit your nearest NRCS field office for more information on these tools and how NRCS can help you mitigate climate change.