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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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Written By

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.


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