Soil Carbon

Increasing the quantity of carbon stored in agricultural soils has the potential to offset emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, while soil carbon losses would further add to those emissions.

However, realising this mitigation potential is technically challenging when soil carbon stocks are already high (as they are in New Zealand), potential changes in soil carbon are small and spatial variability is high.

The current NZAGRC programme has three distinct components:

(1) testing specific management practices that may increase the long term soil carbon store in field situations;

(2) developing and using models to predict how a range of management practices may influence long and short tem soil carbon storage; and

(3) identifying those factors that influence the stability of current or newly added soil carbon.

We have also supported international work to map on farm soil carbon and will participate in the international research programme CIRCASA.

Principal Investigators

Dr David Whitehead, Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research (2010-present)
Professor Frank Kelliher, AgResearch (2010-2017)

Research Stories

Soil carbon: The impact of management practices

Converting a ryegrass/clover grassland to a sward with diverse species resulted in lower carbon losses than when regrassing with ryegrass/clover. Diverse swards also maintained the same level of dry matter production as the new ryegrass/clover mix, and both were greater than production from the old ryegrass/clover grassland.

Preliminary carbon balance studies for maize show large losses (most likely due to carbon offtakes during harvest) and the need for two cultivations (first to maize then to winter crop/permanent grassland). Measurements will be maintained to assess changes in soil carbon stocks for the full maize rotation, including both the import and export of maize feed.

  • Excerpt from the NZAGRC Highlights 2017 to be released in full shortly. Read more

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