Burping cattle contribute to climate change, but grasslands under the roof help keep greenhouse gases on the ground. That’s why prairie scientists are digging into the soil to see how much carbon it can hold.
Cameron Carlyle, an associate professor of agriculture, food and nutrition at the University of Alberta, is one of the lead researchers in a project aimed at mapping and quantifying carbon in perennial grasslands in Saskatchewan.
Carlyle also said he plans to identify the best land management practices that will help maintain carbon in the soil.
“Our grassland soils hold large amounts of carbon, and increasing the amount of carbon held in those soils helps mitigate the effects of climate change,” he added. ..
He explained that while plants are alive, they capture carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, move organic carbon molecules from their roots to the soil, and kill their leaves.
Carlyle’s research team will collect and analyze soil samples, including native grasslands, domesticated pastures, and haylands, from 400 different locations in the southern half of Saskatchewan. The team will also work with researchers at the University of Saskatchewan to estimate data using machine learning and map it to an area of 8 million hectares.
Carlyle said his team also talked with livestock producers through a vast project area to gain insights into their land management practices.
“There are many variations on the climate and the underlying soil type, so we can identify practices that can increase the amount of soil carbon in a particular location,” he said.
According to Carlyle, organic carbon-rich soils are rich in nutrients, tend to retain water better, and are more productive and resilient to drought, so producers can also benefit from research.
Cattle produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from the digestive process and fertilizers. According to the Alberta government, beef production is less than 4% of the greenhouse gases produced in Alberta, but half the emissions from agriculture. However, nearly 20% of the industry’s greenhouse gases are removed by soil carbon sinks, such as perennial crops used for cattle grazing.
The industry has been criticized for its emissions, but Carlyle is less concerned with the carbon it holds in the ground, especially when there is financial pressure to convert grasslands to produce more profitable crops. Said it wasn’t recognized.
“We know that if these landscapes are converted to other land uses, such as arable land, half of the carbon can be lost from the soil into the atmosphere,” he said. “Therefore, it is important to protect these types of grassland ecosystems just to keep carbon in the ground.”
He added that the results of the project could be extrapolated to neighboring Prairie.
“Many of the environments and landscapes found in Saskatchewan are also represented in neighboring states,” Carlyle said. “We have political boundaries, but no ecosystem boundaries.”
The Carbon Soil Mapping Project aims to help beef producers trap carbon.
Source link The Carbon Soil Mapping Project aims to help beef producers trap carbon.