Low carbon content in todays agricultural soil
Agriculture provides us with the food we need to survive. Unfortunately, human greed and excessive use of chemicals along with climate changes have led to the lowering of our natural carbon content in today’s agricultural soil. Having a low carbon content in soil can have negative impacts on soil health, crop productivity, and the environment.
Soil carbon is basically the amount of organic matter present in the soil. This includes both soil organic matter and inorganic carbon as carbonate minerals. It is mainly found in the topsoil. It plays a very important role as it dictates soil health and impacts many of the soil’s essential functions. Having a good carbon content in the soil helps in providing nutrients to plants, stores water and also supports the growth of beneficial microbes. Adequate carbon content also helps to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, which can help to mitigate climate change.
Reduction in soil carbon leads to a reduction in soil health and productivity. One of the major reasons for lower carbon content in the topsoil is the extensive use of chemical and synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Most of these chemicals are effective in improving crop yields, but they also destroy natural beneficial microbes in the soil that play a crucial role in soil carbon sequestration. This further leads to soil erosion, which also contributes to the loss of topsoil carbon. Tilling practices have increased in the last 2 decades. Tilling disrupts the soil structure which further leads to the loss of organic matter. In the tilling process, the organic matter is exposed to the atmosphere by which it gets exposed to more oxygen which leads to carbon breakdown more quickly.
Low topsoil carbon content can lead to reduced crop yields, lower soil fertility, and increased soil erosion. If we look at the bigger picture then low soil carbon content also contributes to climate change. The topsoil carbon can help to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil thus reducing the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Regenerative agriculture practices is one of the most effective ways to increase soil carbon content Regenerative agriculture works on the principle of sustainability where it prioritizes soil health first. This can include reducing tillage, rotating crops, using cover crops, and incorporating livestock into the farming system. Reduction in the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides can help to increase soil carbon content. The use of natural beneficial microorganisms for agriculture also helps to retain and also increase the carbon content in the topsoil. All practices which can help us to preserve the beneficial microbes in the soil are welcome.