Transforming Agriculture, Perennially
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Land Institute Perennial & Annual Roots, Photo Credit: Jim Richardson

What Agriculture Can Learn from Native Ecosystems in Building Soil Organic Matter: A Review

Author: Timothy E. Crews and Brian E. Rumsey

Publication: Sustainability

Over the last century, researchers and practitioners with diverse backgrounds have articulated the importance of improving soil organic matter (SOM) contents in agricultural soils. More recently, climate change scientists interested in CO2 sinks, and agroecologists interested in ecological intensification have converged on the goal of building SOM stocks in croplands. The challenge is that agriculture itself is responsible for dramatic losses of SOM.

A growing body of research including that presented in this review suggests that developing perennial grain agroecosystems may hold the greatest promise for agriculture to approach the SOM levels that accumulate in native ecosystems. We present calculations that estimate potential soil organic carbon accumulation rates in fields converted from annual to perennial grains of between 0.13 and 1.70 t ha−1 year−1.

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