The Soil Carbon Challenge
There’s been tons of talk about soil carbon, the mother of all ecosystem services, but it’s time to use good data to show what’s possible, and recognize those land managers who know how to enhance soil water capacity, production, and underground biodiversity
If you want to find out how fast a human can run 100 meters,
do you build computer model, do a literature search, or convene a panel of
experts on human physiology to make a prediction?
No, you run a race. Or a series of them.
The Soil Carbon Challenge is an international as well as local competition to see how fast land managers can turn atmospheric carbon into water-holding, fertility-enhancing organic matter.
There’s been tons of talk about soil carbon, the mother of all ecosystem services, but it’s time to use good data to show what’s possible, and recognize those land managers who know how to enhance soil water capacity, production, and underground biodiversity. Where things are stuck or the way forward is unclear, a competition can supply creative and unconventional solutions. A competition can leapfrog the decades-long cycle of research, pilot projects, legislation, and incentives, and can showcase leadership based on know-how and performance rather than on politics, promises, or predictions.
Competitions change the question from "Can it be done?" to "How well, and how fast?"
The Soil Carbon Challenge has been measuring soil carbon with permanent plots (145 in North America so far), field sampling, elemental analysis, and open data. Baseline plots can be accurately re-sampled at intervals of 3-10 years.
It’s not an offset scheme. It’s the next agricultural revolution, and you can bring it to your district, sector, or community.
Peter Donovan is founder of the Soil Carbon Coalition. This fall he will be doing baseline plots to monitor soil carbon change in Oregon and California, as well as facilitating participatory workshops on the largely misunderstood opportunities to build capacity at the local level for enhancing the carbon cycle or circle of life.