Soil carbon

Can cropland soils be a part of the climate solution?

Soil is the biggest land-based reservoir for storing carbon. Protecting existing carbon stores by keeping grasslands and forests intact and using climate-smart farming practices on croplands is essential for stabilizing the climate.

Increasing soil carbon, while avoiding new emissions, can help the food and agriculture sector meet climate goals. But questions remain about whether it is possible to do this in a practical and meaningful way. 

Soil carbon accrues slowly, gains can be reversed, and consistently and accurately measuring changes in carbon stocks due to farming practices continues to be a challenge.

To improve clarity, EDF and our partners from 16 research institutions are at the forefront of scientific inquiry into the possibilities and limitations of storing carbon in soil and reducing net greenhouse gas emissions. 

The results will help improve measurement and verification and clarify expectations for the growing number of public and private initiatives that encourage farming practices aimed at storing more carbon in the soil.

Urgent and essential research questions

  • How greenhouse gas mitigation varies based on factors like soil type, geography, crops and agricultural practices.
  • How to quantify the realistic potential impact of the adoption of different agricultural practices, rather than relying on theoretical projections.
  • How to account for the net climate impact of farming practices that may increase soil carbon sequestration while simultaneously leading to the release of more nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas.
  • How to make ground-based measurements feasible and cost-effective, as this type of measurement is foundational to high-integrity carbon credits.
  • How to resolve inconsistencies in quantification and verification across different soil sampling, measurement, modeling and registry requirements.


Read the latest articles, blogs and press releases on soil carbon.

Our experts


Anne Marie Borrego

(202) 572-3508 (office)

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