Study shows that farmers storing carbon in their soil should focus on another greenhouse gas too


New analysis from Iowa State University suggests farmers and policymakers should take into account methods to fight a robust greenhouse gas that moist and soggy soils emit into the ambiance.

Nitrous oxide, which is usually often known as laughing gas, is a robust contributor to world warming. It locks warmth in the ambiance and is stronger than carbon dioxide, which some farmers have centered on capturing and storing in their soils to fight greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the nitrous oxide emitted into the air comes from nitrogen that farmers apply to their fields as fertilizer. The agriculture sector accounts for 10 p.c of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, in accordance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Iowa State researchers examined soils with completely different quantities of moisture and measured nitrous oxide emissions. They additionally synthesized knowledge from different printed research. They discovered that the extra poorly water drained from a discipline, the extra nitrous oxide it belched into the air, however moderately-drained soils additionally emitted lots of nitrous oxide. Steven Hall, an ecosystem ecologist in Iowa State’s ecology, evolution and organismal biology division led the analysis.

“The climate impact of these nitrous oxide emissions can be twice as great as the possible climate benefits that we might get by storing more carbon in soil organic matter,” Hall mentioned.

That’s why Hall mentioned nitrous oxide emissions should be on the entrance of local weather change conversations in agriculture.

“These nitrous oxide emissions can be consistently high from many of these agricultural soils and they need to be taken into account in terms of climate policy and in carbon markets,” Hall mentioned.

Some farmers have decreased or stopped tilling their farmland to raised retailer carbon and so they’re getting paid for a way a lot carbon they can pull from the air and retailer in the soil. Hall mentioned it is going to take completely different practices to deal with nitrous oxide emissions, like lowering the quantity of nitrogen fertilizer they apply to their fields.

“Probably the low-hanging fruit for addressing nitrous oxide emissions is to think much more carefully about fertilizer management,” Hall mentioned.