Nitrogen Fertilizer and Soil Organic Matter: What Does the Evidence Say?
Posted by Andrew McGuire | December 5, 2023
Does synthetic nitrogen fertilizer burn up soil organic matter? Whether you are focused on soil health, soil sequestration, or soil carbon credits, this is an important question. The persistent claim is that synthetic N fertilizer can “burn” soil carbon by supercharging the soil microbes. This claim mainly arises from a 2007 research article from researchers at the University of Illinois (Khan et al., 2007; open access here) and has recently resurfaced in another article (Jesmin et al., 2021) and the resulting (flawed) media coverage. However, a single study is far from conclusive – so what does the broader scientific literature say? And what have we learned in the last few decades on the relationship between synthetic N and soil organic matter?
Soil to Society is not just a grant, but a strategy of thinking that addresses gaps in current knowledge and between research disciplines. The pipeline strategy traces the flow of nutrients from agricultural systems and food production to human consumption, culminating in the synthesis of more sustainable agricultural management strategies and healthy, affordable food products to meet the needs of diverse individuals and communities. It is a novel way of thinking, especially within traditionally separate research areas in academia. For this reason, one of the main objectives of this Soil to Society grant is to move forward this strategy of thought by introducing students, teachers, and farmers to the pipeline strategy in an educational setting.
Where the Magic Happens: Climate-Smart Practices Funded through Sustainable Farms and Fields Program
Posted by Karen Hills | November 14, 2023
I recently wrote a blog post announcing that Sustainable Farms and Fields (SFF) had launched. This innovative program housed in the Washington State Conservation Commission helps Conservation Districts and other public entities implement practices that are “climate-smart,” or in other words, sequester carbon in soil or vegetation and/or reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. This is one of only a handful of state programs in the U.S. helping agricultural producers be part of the climate solution and achieve co-benefits such as improving soil health.