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Chuck Rice: ‘Dirt beneath our feet can slow climate change’

As plants grow, they take up carbon dioxide, and the plant material that goes into the soil to form organic matter stabilizes that carbon in the soil.

Chuck Rice: Technologies like no-till agriculture, different cropping systems that we know now that we can implement and can have a significant impact on reducing carbon emissions or offsetting those carbon emissions.

Chuck Rice is a soil microbiologist at Kansas State University. He is speaking about how the dirt under our feet can help mitigate climate change.

Chuck Rice: So, over the next 30 years we can do that while we’re looking at other energy sources – biofuels, nuclear, whatever – energy sources that are low carbon emitting forms of energy.

Keeping carbon in the soil also boosts soil quality and productivity. That’s crucial because food production around the world will need to increase. Rice said it’ll need to double as population grows through the year 2050.

Carbon sequestration through agriculture ranks number two on the list of short-term climate mitigation strategies, behind improving the energy efficiency of buildings. Rice said 15 to 20 percent of mitigation potential is in agriculture.

Agriculture over that time period is important. Some people call “the bridge to the future.”

Farmers using no-till techniques, for example, do not turn over all the top soil in a field before planting. That helps keep carbon in the ground. Rice says about 22 percent of U.S. planted crop acreage now uses no-till agriculture. Another 19 percent uses other conservation tillage methods. As plants grow, they take up carbon dioxide and it’s the plant material that goes into the soil to form organic matter and that stabilizes that carbon in the soil.

Our thanks to:
Charles W. Rice
Soil Microbiologist
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS

Image credit: David Nance, USDA

Deborah Byrd

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