Carbon sequestration and environmental benefits from no-till systems
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Agricultural carbon (C) sequestration may be one of the most cost-effective ways to slow processes of global warming. Information is needed on the mechanism and magnitude of gas generation and emission from agricultural soils with specific emphasis on tillage mechanisms. This work reviews the scientific foundation and basic research on tillage-induced carbon losses and environmental benefits of soil carbon. With no tillage, crop residues are left more naturally on the surface to protect the soil and control the conversion of plant C to soil organic matter (SOM) and humus through C cycling. Numerous environmental benefits may result from agricultural activities that sequester soil C and contribute to environmental security. As part of no-regret strategies, practices that sequester soil C help reduce soil erosion and improve water quality and are consistent with more sustainable and less chemically dependent agriculture. While we learn more about soil C storage and its central role in direct environmental benefits, we must understand the secondary environmental benefits and what they mean to production agriculture. Increasing soil C storage can increase infiltration, increase fertility and nutrient cycling, decrease wind and water erosion, minimize compaction, enhance water quality, decrease C emissions, impede pesticide movement and generally enhance environmental quality. The sum of each individual benefit adds to a total package with major significance on a global scale. Incorporating C storage and cycling in conservation planning demonstrates concern for our global resources and presents a positive role for soil C that will have a major impact on our future quality of life.
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