Carbon Sequestration: The soil could store even more carbon, in a process called carbon sequestration, a method with immense potential in reducing the amount of GHGs in the atmosphere. By capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, through photosynthesis, plants convert it into a form of carbon which eventually – after the decomposition of the plant – is stored in the soil. Higher carbon content will also make the soil more resilient to the negative impacts of climate change, improving its fertility, which would help increase crop yields and farmers’ income
Explained: How Carbon Sequestration Improves Soil Fertility and Reduces GHGs Emissions
New Delhi (ABC Live India): Carbon Sequestration: Many of
us know that agriculture is a big contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions. But did you know that a lot of these emissions are a result of
fertilizer overuse, which can actually be tackled?
Growing crops, raising livestock and other forms of land use are responsible for 23% of
human-induced GHG emissions. Agriculture, therefore, is second only to energy
generation in its role as a GHG emitter. With the help of nuclear techniques,
scientists can measure the amount of fertilizer plants take up and provide
farmers with the optimal amount to use. The implementation of this technology
has led to emission reductions of over 50 percent in studies where it had been
The process, along with other methods
on the use of both isotopic and conventional techniques for the measurement of
GHG emissions are described in a new book on Measuring Emission of Agricultural Greenhouse Gases and
Developing Mitigation Options Using Nuclear and Related Techniques.
Published earlier this year, the book presents the outcomes of a Coordinated
Research Project the IAEA has been running since 2014 in cooperation with the
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the German
Science Foundation research unit DASIM (Denitrification in Agricultural Soils:
Integrated Control and Modelling at Various Scales).
It is the first time that a comprehensive book on these various methodologies has been published in a
consolidated and concise manner, intended for scientists, technical experts and
those working in the industry.
In its eight chapters, the book
covers the topics of GHG emissions from agriculture and the relevant methodologies
to measure them. These include non-isotopic and micrometeorological methods,
laboratory and field techniques, as well as isotopic techniques to measure GHGs
and also their sources. The book features ways of measuring methane produced by
livestock and discusses climate-smart agriculture practices for GHG emission
Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are varied and diverse due to
the fact that many microbial processes are involved. Nuclear techniques can
identify the sources and processes that trigger GHG emissions. “This is why
precise measurements are imperative for a country to be able to report its
emissions and then take actions to lower them,” said Mohammad Zaman, Soil
Scientist and Plant Nutritionist at the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear
Techniques in Food and Agriculture and first author of this book.
Tackling climate change by using climate-smart agricultural practices
Soil is the biggest source of carbon, storing 45% of all of the world’s
However, the soil could store even more carbon, in a process called carbon sequestration, a method with an immense potential in reducing the amount of GHGs in the atmosphere. By capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, through photosynthesis, plants convert it into a form of carbon which eventually – after the decomposition of the plant – is stored in the soil. Higher carbon content will also make the soil more resilient to the negative impacts of climate change, improving its fertility, which would help increase crop yields and farmers’ income, said Zaman.
“If we can capitalize on carbon sequestration, it will be a win-win situation for improving soil fertility, the environment, and food security at the same time,” Zaman said.
Such so-called climate-smart agricultural practices which include carbon sequestration, are gaining momentum in countries including Argentina, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Kenya, and Uruguay; as well as Burundi, the Central African Republic, Laos, and Costa Rica.
Putting theory into practice
The book also offers practical solutions on how to implement the
methodologies discussed, using both high-tech and low-tech methods to reap
concrete benefits. “Isotopic techniques provide data and information for better
land management,” said Zaman.
To move from the scientific to the practical, the IAEA and the
FAO are working on designing step-by-step standard operating procedures for
technicians working on measuring GHGs, as well as brochures on climate-smart
agriculture practices for farmers, which will be published in several
As such practices mean higher yields, lower expenses on fertilizer and ultimately higher incomes for farmers, “this is a gain for both the farmer and the environment,” said Zaman.