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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Morris, Minnesota » Soil Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #160537


item Archer, David
item Olness, Alan

Submitted to: American Agricultural Economics Association Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/4/2004
Publication Date: 8/4/2004
Citation: Archer, D.W., Olness, A.E. 2004. Valuation of soil organic carbon as a drought mitigation tool [abstract]. American Agricultural Economics Association. Available:

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: There has been considerable research in recent years related to policies aimed at sequestering carbon (C) in agricultural soils and identifying the incentives necessary to encourage producers to adopt C sequestering practices. However, there has been more limited analysis of the incentives that producers may already have to preserve soil organic C through its effect on crop productivity. These analyses have typically focused on optimum management based on the dynamics of soil attributes. While this interaction is important, another approach is to focus on the direct impact of soil organic C on crop productivity holding management constant. This approach provides greater insight into the value of the resource independent of the costs needed to maintain the resource. Soil organic C has many functions in the soil. Perhaps one of the most important functions as related to crop production is its effect on plant available water capacity. While the effect of organic C on available water varies with soil texture, generally available water capacity increases with increased organic C. While increased available water capacity has clear benefits to crop production in arid regions, it may also benefit crop production in regions where water is not typically limiting. A crop simulation modeling approach was used with Soil Survey Geographic Database (SSURGO) soils data to quantify the effect of soil organic C on corn and soybean production for soils in the northern Corn Belt. Model output showed the potential response of crop yields to increased soil organic C under varying weather conditions. Simulation results were integrated with land use maps to estimate potential county-wide impacts of increased soil organic C on crop productivity under varying weather conditions. Distributions of yield responses under varying weather conditions for contrasting soil types illustrate differences in the value of organic C in mitigating drought conditions. Although the value of organic C was expected to be greatest in years when precipitation was lowest, the analysis showed this was only the case if precipitation in the previous year was high enough to provide some carryover. Soil organic C is only useful in mitigating short-term drought conditions.