Croplands are labeled as “climate change mitigators” given their ability to trap carbon dioxide (CO2) as soil organic matter (SOM). SOM is a complex mixture of compounds, primarily carbon (C), derived from plant litter's decomposition. Healthy soils are now part of “verified C markets”, which are corporate programs in which enrolled farmers receive money for keeping SOM in the ground. Metrics of success are often limited to bulk soil C stocks. This is a critical limitation – not all SOM is created equal and may behave differently in the environment depending on their properties.
There is a growing movement within the agricultural community to use a nature-based approach to soil management, emphasizing its natural ability to sequester atmospheric carbon. Soil carbon sequestration not only improves soil health and fertility, but benefits the climate (reduced GHG emissions) and watersheds (facilitates water infiltration, mitigating floods, and purification).
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