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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #237228

Title: Fact Sheet: Soil Carbon Sequestration in Pastures

item Dell, Curtis

Submitted to: Extension Fact Sheets
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/2/2009
Publication Date: 3/3/2009
Citation: Dell, C.J. 2009. Fact Sheet: Soil Carbon Sequestration in Pastures. Northeast Pasture Consortium. p. 1.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The sequestration of carbon as soil organic matter is one way to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and lower the potential for global climate change. Cultivation typically caused the loss of 20 to 50% the native soil organic matter. Establishing pasture on former croplands is expected to add 0.2 to 0.5 tons of carbon per acre for a period of 20 to 25 years. Mature pastures sequester little additional carbon, but represent a large pool of carbon (up to 25 tons C per acre) that would be returned to the atmosphere if the pastures were tilled again. Carbon credit programs have been proposed to compensate landowners for the carbon they sequester. The only current programs that apply to pastures are through the Chicago Climate Exchange. Those programs assume a set rate of carbon accumulation following pasture establishment and do not require participants to provide measured verification of increased soil carbon. If future carbon credit programs require measurement of soil carbon, analytical costs and labor requirements for sampling should be considered. Because of a high degree of spatial variation in soil carbon in Northeastern US landscapes, large numbers of samples are needed to minimize sampling error and allow the detection of statistical verification of increases with time. At prices currently paid for carbon credits, opportunities for income from soil carbon sequestration in pastures are limited. However if caps are imposed on carbon dioxide emissions, higher offset payment rates could make soil carbon sequestration much more profitable.