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Published on August 18th, 2008 | by Ariel Schwartz

12

Carbon Farming Being Tested As a Way to Store CO2 in Soil



Farms are places of food and commodity production almost by definition. But that definition is changing with carbon farming. This new style of farming, which produces soils that store carbon dioxide, is currently being explored by scientists at the US Geological Survey and UC Davis in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

The scientists aim to rebuild lost wetlands in the area. These wetlands will include rich peat soils that store CO2.

And the research teams aren’t working on guesswork alone— a test study on an island called Twitchell in the western Delta showed that the experimental process could bury up to 25 metric tons of CO2 each year and eliminate CO2 emissions from current farming practices.

But there are problems with this method of carbon sequestration. The USGS believes that the rebuilt wetlands could release nitrous oxide and methane, greenhouse gases that are more dangerous than CO2. If it turns out that emissions of these gases are high, that could be enough to make the project’s drawbacks outweigh its benefits.

Scientists also admit the possibility that the wetlands could produce methylmercury, a neurotoxin that is toxic to mammals. Unfortunately, the dangerousness of these potential risks will be unknown until further study is performed. We should just make sure that we don’t create a bevy of new problems by literally burying an old one.

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About the Author

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.



  • http://www.thelittlefoxes.net Lorri Collins

    There must be a better way. A compromise perhaps?

  • http://www.thelittlefoxes.net Lorri Collins

    There must be a better way. A compromise perhaps?

  • Pingback: Carbon Farming Could Bury CO2 in Soil « Potting Benches

  • E

    I don’t believe in burying any problems

  • Cameron Baron

    This is silly. The self irony here is difficult to read without laughing. By the sounds of the article we should be removing every peat bog on the planet due to it’s horrible impact on the environment. Methane is produced as a natural by product of decaying plant life (and animal flatuance, as it turns out).

    Of course this form of greenhouse gas was around long before man came around, and will still be around long after we leave. The Great Plains once boasted Bison numbers between 60-100 million… that’s alot of methane. Now we worry about Cow farts.

    I think people need to get a grip on this stuff

  • Cameron Baron

    This is silly. The self irony here is difficult to read without laughing. By the sounds of the article we should be removing every peat bog on the planet due to it’s horrible impact on the environment. Methane is produced as a natural by product of decaying plant life (and animal flatuance, as it turns out).

    Of course this form of greenhouse gas was around long before man came around, and will still be around long after we leave. The Great Plains once boasted Bison numbers between 60-100 million… that’s alot of methane. Now we worry about Cow farts.

    I think people need to get a grip on this stuff

  • E

    I don’t believe in burying any problems

  • http://carbonfarmersofamerica.com/ Chris

    There are other ways too!

    http://carbonfarmersofamerica.com/

  • http://carbonfarmersofamerica.com/ Chris

    There are other ways too!

    http://carbonfarmersofamerica.com/

  • Jim Deacons

    Nice, just sweep it all under the rug. Makes perfect sense!

    RD

    http://www.crypt.alturl.com

  • Jim Deacons

    Nice, just sweep it all under the rug. Makes perfect sense!

    RD

    http://www.crypt.alturl.com

  • Marvin Wagijo

    It’s a good thing they study it first ;-).

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