Carbon Sequestration and Water Quality

Conservation management practices have historically been meant to prevent excessive erosion, thereby reducing the degradation of soil productivity. They have also been implemented to protect water quality. Conservation tillage and particularly no-till crop management can dramatically reduce if not nearly eliminate, erosion from cropland soils. Erosion prevention is accomplished by the accumulation of organic carbon in the form of soil organic matter and crop residues on the soil surface.  The crop residues protect the soil surface from the erosion impacts of raindrops and the soil organic matter binds soil particles together, making them less erodible. Erosion prevention on Oklahoma’s cropland not only prevents eroded sediment from polluting our surface water but also reduces nutrient transport to those water bodies. Phosphorus, for example, is bound to soil particles and is therefore readily transported to rivers and lakes with eroded sediments. Erosion prevention is the most effective means by which phosphorus losses from cropland to surface waters can be reduced.

The accumulation of organic carbon as crop residues and soil organic carbon in no-till cropping systems (and after planting grass on cropland), provides the additional benefit of removing carbon in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is the most prevalent gas in the atmosphere that is thought responsible for human induced climate change. Its sequestration in soil under no-till management can generate carbon credits that may serve as an additional source of income for producers. For more information on carbon credits and the Oklahoma Carbon Program visit the Oklahoma Conservation Commission’s carbon program website or the Oklahoma Carbon Initiative website.

Click on the following links to view PDF files.

Carbon Offsets for the Oklahoma Landowner
Raindrops and Bombs – The Erosion Process
Organic Matter in No-Till Production Systems
Summary of the Soil Carbon Sequestration Assessment Program
Fate of Precipitation Falling on Oklahoma Cropland