Agricultural Lands

As the Congressional Budget Office reports, various agricultural practices, such as reducing or eliminating tillage and altering the mix of crops, can enhance carbon sequestration. Tillage (ploughing and harrowing to produce a seed bed) releases carbon into the atmosphere by disturbing the soil and increasing the exposure of soil carbon to the air. Tillage also removes plant residue from the previous crop that would have protected and increased carbon in the soil. Those effects can be lessened through no-tillage practices, in which farmers sow crops by cutting narrow slots in the soil for seeds and do not remove residue from earlier crops. In addition, as farmers rotate which crops they grow on which parts of their land from year to year, they can foster sequestration through frequent use of cover crops—particularly those, like hay, that do not require tillage and that fix carbon in the soil through their extensive root systems. Other practices that help sequester carbon include planting grasses on the edges of cropland and streams to prevent soil erosion and changing grazing management on rangeland and pasture (for example, by rotating grazing areas and using improved plant species). The Marin Agriculture Land Trust is implementing these best management practices and more to improve agriculture and climate outcomes on the working farms. You can learn more about carbon farm planning here. To assess carbon sequestration benefits of various agricultural management practices, explore the USDA’s COMET-Farm tool, pictured below.

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