Hickory Corners, Mich.—Minimizing soil disturbances and increasing additions of plant biomass to soil are well-known practices for increasing the carbon storage potential of soil, which is an important tool in stemming the rise of global temperatures.
But past studies examining carbon gains and retention made clear that there was more to the story. For example, soils in switchgrass plots have been observed as slow to increase carbon despite the absence of tillage.
New research from MSU researcher Alexandra Kravchenko and others, including W.K. Kellogg Biological Station faculty member Phil Robertson, suggests that plant-stimulated soil pore formation is a significant factor in whether carbon is stored or released into the atmosphere. Several different plots at the KBS Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center were examined: continuous corn, corn with a cover crop, switchgrass, and poplar and native plant successions. Diverse plant communities generally demonstrated a higher development of favorable soil pore sizes and presence of increased microbial activity.
“Understanding how carbon is stored in soils is important for thinking about solutions for climate change,” says Robertson. “It’s also pretty important for ways to think about soil fertility and therefore, crop production.”
New paper points to soil pore structure as key to carbon storage | July 26, 2019
Soil pore structure is key to carbon storage | July 26, 2019
Scientists discover new mechanism for how soils store carbon | July 30, 2019