So, what is soil carbon, and why is it so important?

Through photosynthesis carbon is removed from the atmosphere by plants, which convert carbon dioxide into plant material.  What the plant doesn’t need for growth is exuded via the roots to feed soil microorganisms.  Carbon is the main component of soil organic matter which helps soils to harness and transfer nutrients and retain moisture.  Some soil carbon within soil aggregates is more stable whereas more “active” soil carbon resides in topsoil and is in continual flux between its microbial hosts and the atmosphere.

Fungi, particularly mycorrhizal fungi play an important role in the exchange of carbon between plants and soil.  Fungi take up organic nitrogen on behalf of the plant, out-competing bacteria that decompose organic matter and release carbon.  Having the right abundance and balance of soil microorganisms or soil biology is therefore an important catalyst for improved carbon sequestration or storage. 

Farming practises have a significant bearing on the soil biological community and the ability of soils to sequester carbon.  Examples include, minimum and conservation tillage, reduced chemical applications, cover crops, crop and stock rotations, avoided over grazing, enhanced biodiversity, use of biological farming inputs and integrated cropping. 

All of these practises will directly impact the length of time carbon is stored away from the atmosphere.  This is important as carbon is central to resilient farming systems, for drought and future proofing our farming operations and understanding the natural capital value of our farmland.  

In the years ahead managing carbon will be good for business, a point of differentiation with customers and financiers and a direct addition to the farms bottom-line through direct carbon schemes, natural capital / biodiversity credits and sustained yields from more resilient farms less vulnerable to extreme weather events, biotic and abiotic stresses.  

Converte’s Managing Director believes that the priority around soil carbon is firstly about climate adaption and resilience and from this the other benefits will flow. 

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