Conservation agriculture marginally increases soil carbon stocks

Scientists find conservation agriculture increases soil carbon concentrations and improves yields, but minimally contributes to climate change mitigation by increasing soil organic carbon stocks.

Originally published on the CIMMYT blog.

Resarchers from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) with support from CCAFS and Rothamsted Research, strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), conducted a meta-analysis of research in the Indo-Gangetic Plains or Sub-Saharan Africa. Using 76 pertinent studies, they found wide variability in mitigation potential among sites and agricultural systems.

Conservation agriculture has positive effects on a range of soil physical properties and increases soil productivity, retains water and contributes to a range of ecosystem services. It potentially improves the resilience of soils to stress and contributes to climate change adaptation. 

Despite finding some marginal increases in soil organic carbon stocks, researchers caution that results from a specific location are necessarily transferable to other loctions. They conclude that mitigation of climate change should not be the driving force behind conservation agriculture.

Link to the full article here:

Powlson D, Stirling C, Thierfelder C, White R, Jat ML. 2015. Does conservation agriculture deliver climate change mitigation through soil carbon sequestration in tropical agro-ecosystems? Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 220:164-174.

Read the CIMMYT blog here.