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

Irrigation effects modelled

The CenW model developed for Waikato farms was compared against three years of eddy-covariance data from an irrigated grazed pasture in the Canterbury region. CenW was used to compare three irrigation management scenarios: no irrigation (dairy grazed), real life irrigation (dairy grazed), and sheep grazing (no irrigation or fertiliser). This initial modelling demonstrated that carbon accumulation was maximised with about 1100mm of combined rainfall and irrigation.

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