“Carbon farming” soil project tested in California

Scientists in central California are testing a new kind of farming -- "carbon farming" -- to produce soils that can store carbon dioxide, the Environment News Service reported. The concept is being explored on 1.6 square kilometres in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta.

Researchers from the United States Geological Survey and the University of California, Davis, are exploring the idea under a grant from the state government. Their project involves building wetlands, which originally featured in the area but were drained to create farmland. Over the past 150 years, conventional agriculture has exposed fragile peat soils to wind, rain and oxygen, liberating carbon from the soil and sinking the land.

By re-establishing wetlands, the project is intended to rebuild peat-rich soils that could sequester tonnes of carbon dioxide, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. The project could fail, the scientists say, producing nitrous oxide and methane and possibly methylmercury, which would cancel out the carbon-sequestration benefit and introduce new toxins. Conversely, it could be a successful model for future projects, sequestering carbon and creating new opportunities for sustainable farming.

See full story