Knowledge for better food systems

Comment: Soil carbon science for policy and practice

This commentary argues that there is scientific consensus on the need to build soil organic carbon because of benefits such as resistance to soil erosion, higher fertility and resilience to drought. The authors note that these benefits of building soil carbon are being obscured by high-profile disagreements on the separate question of whether or not building soil carbon may help to mitigate climate change.

The commentary reviews areas of both agreement and disagreement in soil science, and concludes that the scientific basis for building soil carbon for reasons other than climate mitigation needs to be communicated clearly.



Soil-based initiatives to mitigate climate change and restore soil fertility both rely on rebuilding soil organic carbon. Controversy about the role soils might play in climate change mitigation is, consequently, undermining actions to restore soils for improved agricultural and environmental outcomes.



Bradford, M.A., Carey, C.J., Atwood, L., Bossio, D., Fenichel, E.P., Gennet, S., Fargione, J., Fisher, J.R., Fuller, E., Kane, D.A. and Lehmann, J., 2019. Soil carbon science for policy and practice. Nature Sustainability, pp.1-3.

Read the full paper here. See also the Foodsource resource Food systems and contributions to other environmental problems and the FCRN report Grazed and Confused?

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North America

North America is the northern subcontinent of the Americas covering about 16.5% of the Earth's land area. This large continent has a range of climates spanning Greenland’s permanent ice sheet and the dry deserts of Arizona. Both Canada and the USA are major food producers and some of the largest food exporters in the world. Industrial farms are the norm in North America, with high yields relative to other regions and only 2% of the population involved in agriculture.

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