Trust in the Progress

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Trust in the Progress 

Lets face it, carbon sequestration is sometimes a difficult thing to measure. One way to bring greater validity and grower confidence to claims about carbon sequestration is for the use of solid techniques and methods that are firmly based on science and relatable to producers participating in carbon markets. Physical soil sampling is one such method that is both relatable to growers’ experiences and has a sound science foundation.

Third-party soil sampling and soil analyses are used to measure carbon in the soil for farmers and ranchers involved in Agoro Carbon’s Alliance carbon program. There are at least three times when soil samples are collected from producers’ fields. The first measurement taken for soil carbon levels is done soon after their contract is signed. This first physical measurement in their fields is used to create a baseline measurement of where the levels of carbon are in their soils as they prepare to introduce new carbon farming practices on their operation. This resulting number, itself, is not a measurement of how “good” the producer’s historical practices or management have been, but rather a launching point to measure progress against in the future – also referred to as a baseline. Different soil types, different geographies and different operation types will all naturally tend to create a wide variety of carbon levels in soils.

After a producer has implemented the new carbon farming or ranching practices for five years, another soil sampling takes place to monitor the progress of the carbon levels in the soil. Here it is important to understand that this new measurement or level is used to compare against what the producer’s levels would have been if they had not adopted the new carbon capturing practices. Most models and research have shown that status quo management of row crop fields and pastures (high tillage, bare soil, minimal grazing movement between pastures) will likely tend to result in the decrease of carbon levels in soils over time. Through the assistance of Agoro Carbon’s dedicated Grower Success Team (GST), producers in the program will receive assistance to ensure that the new practices are implemented with a strong plan based on research and local knowledge customized for each producer. This assistance is key to enabling farmers and ranchers the best possible chance to strengthen their operation and successfully build soil carbon levels in their soil and to get paid for it. 

Unlike some traditional fertility soil sampling, sampling for soil carbon relies on a little more information than grid patterns or crop rotations. There is importance placed on a variety of historical treatment parameters such as tillage and irrigation, the timing and intensity of new practices being adopted and the statistics of thorough representation of soil and land characteristics. The producer’s first-hand knowledge and expertise about their land and their farming or ranching operation is essential for informing the way their soil is sampled. Again, the GST works closely with producers to collect all the essential information that will allow soil sampling and modeling to maximize the producer’s credit for building soil carbon.

After ten years of the new carbon capturing practice/s being implemented, soil samples are again collected from the producer’s fields to measure the carbon levels in the soil. This is a pivotal event. Most research models show that the carbon levels in the soil are built slowly in the first few years after these carbon farming practices are started, but that this rate accelerates beyond five years. This third soil sampling shows the true force of the practice change that has enabled carbon to be sequestered out of the air and into the soil structure to be securely kept.  The method and scientific rigor of the soil measurement at this point will ensure maximum return for the producer’s time and effort.

Physical soil sampling is a tried and true scientific method of measuring soils. However, the science and technology around measuring carbon in soils is continuing to evolve at a great speed and there is a high probability that additional tools such as proximal sensing and remote sensing will be developed and realized that can more quickly and thoroughly measure carbon in the very near future. Agoro Carbon’s seasoned and diverse experts continue to test and assess these technologies to see how they may be able to further ensure producers are fairly compensated for the actual carbon their practices have been able to sequester in soils.

Additionally, while carbon is the cornerstone of the carbon credit market and a tangible way to measure a producer’s impact, there are a wide variety of other co-benefits and agronomic advantages, seen and unseen, that arise from carbon farming and ranching practices. Agoro Carbon’s teams on the ground are committed to working with producers to demonstrate and measure these co-benefits through the life of the program to prove the agronomic and financial value of these practices, even beyond the carbon credit payments. Measuring soil health indicators and agronomic resiliency benefits of these new practices is essential to telling the whole story. Because practices that build carbon levels in the soil also build organic matter and can reduce nutrient runoff and soil erosion, the true impact of carbon farming practices goes well beyond the measured carbon.

Soil sampling and new, robust measurements of the carbon in producer’s soils are firmly based on scientific methods and principles and are performed using unbiased third-parties to further advance the validity of the process and the results. Agoro Carbon is committed to continuing and building upon the current work done to strengthen the trust producers and the public have in the agricultural carbon market.

John Pullis
John Pullis
Senior Agronomist, Leading Agoro Carbon's Soil Sampling
Michigan’s diverse agriculture influenced John’s lifelong love for farming—from specialty crops like cherries, apples, pickling cucumbers, and sugar beet—to commodity crops like corn, soybeans and wheat. He earned an M.S. in Soil Science from South Dakota State University and a B.S. in Chemistry from Oakland University. John’s areas of expertise are Soil Fertility, Nitrogen Management, and Precision Agriculture. He has a decade’s worth of experience in retail agriculture, including a stint in manure and environmental management research for USDA-ARS, and serving as an Agriculture and Natural Resources educator at Michigan State University Extension (specializing in dairy and livestock production, potato production, and GAP third-party food safety audit preparation for growers throughout the state). John thrives from the constant stimulation and development of the agriculture industry. His greatest priority is ensuring sufficient diverse food and providing the basic necessities of life to all.
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