Submitted to: National Cotton Council Beltwide Cotton Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/15/2004
Publication Date: 1/5/2005
Citation: Causarano, H.J., Franzluebbers, A.J., Reeves, D.W., Shaw, J.N., Norfleet, M.L. 2005. Potential for soil carbon sequestration in cotton production systems of the southeastern USA. In: Proceedings of the Beltwide Cotton Conference. Available: http://www.cotton.org/beltwide/. January 4-7, 2005, New Orleans, Louisanna. p. 2492-2499. Interpretive Summary: Past agricultural management practices have contributed to the loss of soil organic carbon and emission of greenhouse gases. Conservation-oriented agricultural management systems can be, and have been, developed to sequester soil organic carbon, improve soil quality, and increase crop productivity. This document (1) reviews available literature related to soil organic carbon sequestration in cotton production systems, (2) recommends best management practices to sequester soil organic carbon, and (3) outlines political scenarios and future probabilities for cotton producers to benefit from soil organic carbon sequestration. Conservation tillage, cropping system intensification, sod-based crop rotations, and judicious use of fertilizers and herbicides were some of the agricultural practices shown to be successful in increasing soil organic carbon. Participation in the Conservation Security Program could lead to government payments of up to $8/acre, while open-market trading of carbon credits would appear to yield less than $1/acre, although prices would greatly increase should a government policy to limit greenhouse gas emissions be mandated.
Technical Abstract: Conservation tillage, crop intensification, sod-based rotations, and judicious application of fertilizers and herbicides are agricultural practices that are not only agronomically sound, but could increase soil C sequestration. These practices have great potential for adoption by cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L) producers in the southeastern USA. This paper reviews literature and discusses the impact and potential of best management practices by cotton producers to sequester C in the southeastern USA. The current political scenario and future probabilities for cotton producers to benefit from C sequestration, either directly through existing and proposed farm policies or indirectly through increased soil productivity are outlined. Current C prices are $3 per ton of C on the USA voluntary market. Carbon sequestration rates with adoption of no-tillage management of cotton production systems averaged 428 lb C/acre/year. In the future, a landowner could receive additional income by trading C credits or from government incentives like the Conservation Security Program.