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Sequestering carbon in soil - addressing the climate threat

14th Sep 2017

This report is a summary of a longer report from a conference that took place in May this year, looking at sequestering soil carbon in soils. Scientists, experts, farmers and other interested parties got together to discuss the issues and opportunties with soil management and carbon; how this can be addressed and implemented with policy, practice and projects.

The full report is available to read here (and is well worth it), but the main points are also summarised below. The full report was compiled by Breakthrough Strategies and Solutions. 

"We must kick start an upward spiral of soil rejuvenation and preservation that supports carbon sequestration, the economic needs of farmers and the production of nutritious food for human health" (Jenny Dungait, Rothamsted Research).

Critical questions

  • What are the best soil carbon sequestration farming practices and how do we help farmers adopt and maintain them?
  • What policies are needed to provide financing and incentives for the adoption of soil carbon sequestration?
  • What are the best approaches to measuring and verifying carbon in soil?
  • How can we scale up soil carbon sequestration while also addressing issues of equity, land access and sustainable economic development?
  • What scientific research is needed to advance soil carbon sequestration practices and how do we share research and knowledge back and forth between farmers and academics.
  • How do we take soil carbon sequestration to scale as fast as possible?
  • What is the global technical potential of soil carbon sequestration for addressing the climate threat?

Achieving action 

Workshops were held on several key themes to look at how to take ideas and turn them into action on the ground.


"Farmers will change their practices if thre is a support system to ensure they will not go broke in the process." (Graham Christensen, GC Resource).


There was strong agreement that soil organic matter is a strong overall indicator of soil health and that there is significant potential for soil carbon sequestration through agricutlure and ecosystem restoration. There is a need to create a uniform measurement method for soil carbon globally to design a science based set of indicators for farmers to help them know when they are succeeding at building healthy soil and advancing soil carbon sequestration and to launch demonstration farms and pilot projects in at least one third of all countries. 


This looked at examples of policy initiatives working including the new Healthy Soils Initiative in California. To hasten the wide scale adoption of soil carbon sequestration practices, policies must reward a broader set of outcomes, cinluding tangible yield increases, drought resistance and improved resilience.


This looked at what success on the ground looks like for soil carbon sequestration. There is no silver bullet or single practice that will work everywhere. Many in the group argued for a set of guiding principles that would inform practices across different landscapes and cultural contexts.

"We need demonstration farms, farmer to farmer mentoring and training programs and financial support to build healthy soils and sequester carbon as quickly as possible." (Kofi Boa, Centre for No Till Agriculture)

Vital connections 

This looked at concerns and strategies to ensure equity, land rights and social justice within soil carbon sequestration.

Technical potential

Agricultural mitigation must include consideration of four key facts:

  • Reducing emissions from agriculture
  • Sequestration of carbon in soils and above ground biomass
  • Climate Change adaptation
  • Avoid deforestation through sustainable intensification of yields

As well as the focused workshops, discussions ensued around key opportunities that are a significant part of the picture, including Agroforestry, Rotational grazing and grassland management and joining together in developing global land strategies. 

Soil Health

A simple checklist for making sure your farm is increasing soil organic carbon (Tuomas J. Mattila, 2017)