From the Farm: What’s the big deal about carbon?

Local News

ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Carbon seems to be everywhere, and to remove it from the air and bury it in the soil, farmers will be the key to any success.

Some people might ask, why is carbon such a big deal? Well, it’s the soot in your chimney and helps you grill a steak. But it is ubiquitous and part of increasing concern about climate change is the amount of carbon that makes up most greenhouse gases, says Illinois State Conservationist Ivan Dozier.

“We’re trying to find a balance and actually I look at it as a win-win,” he says. “It is good for productivity of your soil to have that rich organic matter in there. But as we are also finding out in nature everything is connected. And the release of excess carbon can cause problems in the atmosphere.

“It’s one of the greenhouse gases that we have and it can hold some of the heat in the atmosphere. So if we can do a win-win; if we can figure out that balance, that way of keeping more carbon in the soil, and less out of the atmosphere, and then it is also going to help us with our crop production as well.”

Dozier says that crops, prairie grasses and microbes put carbon in the soil.

“So that color does come from organic matter, that is the biggest factor of giving our good dark soil, is the organic matter and the organic matter came from thousands of years of this nice tall native prairie grass growing and dying on this spot,” says Dozier. “The roots. The plant material on the surface. Those carbon-based organisms that are working down there in the soil, that gives us those good dark colors.”

WCIA tells Dozier, it also flows back out.

“But as you mentioned those same factors are breaking down carbon all the time and it gets released into the atmosphere,” he says. “The process kind of got slowed down here in this part of the state, largely because of the vigorous growing grasses that we have and because the soils are very wet. Not as much oxygen down in there that starts that decomposition process.”

WCIA will hear more Dozier more about the changing relationship of carbon and agriculture.

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