What is it about?

A meta-analysis compares regenerative agricultural practices’ impact on soil carbon levels. Agriculture inherently depletes soil organic carbon (SOC), which may be found in particulate or mineral-associated forms. Replenishing SOC is an important strategy to reduce global warming and maintain soil health and agricultural yields. Aaron Prairie and colleagues performed a global meta-analysis of 118 studies to examine how different regenerative management practices change SOC levels. The authors found that no-till practices increased topsoil SOC in topsoil by 11.3 % compared to conventional tilling. Cropping system intensification, which includes practices like planting cover crops, led to a 12.4 % increase in topsoil SOC. The authors found that the effects of each regenerative management method depended on variables such as tilling frequency, specific type of crop intensification, and the length of time each approach was used. The largest increases in SOC occurred where multiple practices were in use. For example, no-till combined with crop-livestock approaches led to a 29.9% increase in SOC compared to conventional approaches. Particulate and mineral-associated organic carbon levels were uniquely impacted by different combinations of management strategies. The analysis showed that regenerative agriculture can increase different forms of organic carbon in topsoil across a variety of climates. According to the authors, combining multiple regenerative practices has the greatest potential to increase SOC pools.

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Why is it important?

The regeneration of soil organic carbon (SOC) in agricultural soils is one of the most realizable nature-based solutions to mitigate global warming and sustain food productivity in the future. Recent advancement in the understanding of SOC formation and persistence indicated that we need to separate it into two distinct forms, particulate (POC) and mineral-associated (MAOC). This study presents results from the first global meta-analysis on the response of SOC, POC and MAOC, to regenerative agricultural practices including no-till, cropping system intensification, and integrated crop-livestock. We found that regenerative practices increased both POC and MAOC, thus both improving soil health and promoting long-term carbon storage. Our most interesting findings were the tremendous potential to greatly increase SOC pools through synergistic interactions between multiple practices especially in integrated crop-livestock systems

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Restoring particulate and mineral-associated organic carbon through regenerative agriculture, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, May 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2217481120.
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