How to measure organic carbon in soils and, even more importantly, accurately measure how it changes over time, are major challenges in the potential development of new income streams for farmers in the next few years.
Globally, there has been a lot of talk about how soils, usually in connection with being farmed regeneratively, could reverse climate change by acting as a vast carbon sink.
The concept is that farmers could be paid for following carbon-storing practices by companies wanting to offset their emissions, creating another income stream.
But the quest to develop these carbon markets relies very much on an unanswered question – how to sample and measure carbon in soils accurately and repeatably?
When, where, how deep and how often you should sample are all a matter of debate among scientists, let alone what method to use and whether there is a finite or infinite amount of carbon that can be stored in soils.
When there is money on the line, answers to these questions will become vital, and much research is ongoing in this area.
There are more immediate reasons to be assessing soil carbon levels though.