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A crimson clover
cover crop being used in the conservation tillage system at the carbon dioxide
enrichment study site in Auburn, Alabama. Click the image for more
information about it.
Farming Practices Influence the Effects of Rising
Carbon Dioxide By Laura McGinnis August 29, 2006
If atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations double
within the next century, as some scientists predict, how should agriculture
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Auburn, Ala., are in the
eighth year of a study to help answer this important question. At the
Soil Dynamics Research Unit, scientists are examining how different farm
management practices can help store carbon in the soil, thus keeping it out of
the air. Their research explores how increasing concentrations of atmospheric
CO2 affect crops.
Brett Runion is conducting the research with plant physiologist
A. Prior and research leader
The scientists are using cylindrical, open-top field chambers to
expose growing crops to varying levels of atmospheric CO2. Measurement of soil
and plant responses to rising CO2 enables the scientists to understand how to
manage agricultural systems to increase the amount of carbon stored in plant
residues and soil.
Increased carbon storage has multiple benefits, such as reduced soil
erosion and compaction, increased water-holding capacity for plants and a
slower rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations.
Runion is also using a system called ACESfor automated carbon
efflux systemto track carbon as it flows from soil to atmosphere.
Currently the group is using ACES to compare the effects of CO2 on conventional
and conservation tillage systems for a sorghum-soybean crop rotation.
about the research in the August 2006 issue of Agricultural Research
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agricultures chief scientific research agency.