Priorities for a future research agenda on soil carbon and climate change

  • 23rd August 2017
  • by secretary
19 June 2017. 30 CGIAR scientists, representing seven CGIAR Centers and six CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs), exchanged recent research findings and identified priorities for a future research agenda on soil carbon and climate change. The meeting was hosted by the CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) and Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

The presentations and the ensuing discussion indicated that the effects of improved technologies or practices on soil carbon sequestration are often lower than expected.

Results from a study by CIMMYT of 125 households in southern Africa showed no evidence for soil carbon gains from conservation agriculture. Similarly, a synthesis of work in the Indo-Gangetic Plains and Sub-Saharan Africa showed only modest increases.

Future research priorities on soil carbon and climate change identified by the group can be grouped into five general themes:

  • Quantifying soil carbon sequestration potential,
  • Understanding soil carbon processes,
  • Evaluating the impact of land use and new technical practices,
  • Methods for improved assessment, and
  • Policy and action.
The scientists will take steps to support coordination of this research across CRPs in ways that make use of our extensive network of field sites and large knowledge base on sustainable agricultural practices, while also recognizing the broader ecosystem functions of soil carbon and seeking to improve understanding of the benefits and trade-offs of soil carbon sequestration. 
This will include developing a program of work that reflects different strategies for soil carbon management—such as (1) conserving land (including peat, wetlands, grasslands and forest), (2) rehabilitating or restoring land, or (3) sustainably intensifying agricultural land use—and the best practices with the highest potential impact under each strategy. The group will meet again later in 2017.