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Full spectrum of carbon

A soil health specialist wants farmers to see carbon for all its benefits.

Anna Cates with the University of Minnesota says with organic matter being about half carbon, most farmers recognize its importance for fertility.

“The studies show that when you fertilizer that has a little tracer in it, you can see that only 50 percent of that fertilizer gets into the crop. The other 50 percent of the nitrogen in the crop is from your organic nitrogen source. So we know that organic matter, mineralization, is important for nitrogen supplies.”

But she tells Brownfield some farmers might not be aware of how important carbon is to building soil structure.

“And when you think about water management, it all comes back to soil structure and soil physical properties. So organic matter is not only about fertility, of course it does give you some organic nutrients, but it also is about a well-structured soil that’s going to give you those important drainage, infiltration, hydrological functions.”

Cates is beginning a research project, funded in part by the Minnesota Corn Growers, that looks at how newly installed tile impacts the soil carbon sequestration balance.

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