Soil Pore Structure Important for Carbon Storage

Research published in Nature Communications by scientists at Michigan State University showed the importance of soil pore structure in soil carbon storage. Researchers studied five different cropping systems in a replicated field experiment in southwest Michigan, and they found that the two samples with high plant diversity had higher levels of soil carbon. The most stable carbon appears to be the result of microbes producing organic compounds that are then adsorbed onto soil mineral particles. Scientists found that soils from restored prairie ecosystems, with many different plant species, had many more pores of the right size for stable carbon storage than did a pure stand of switchgrass. “If we can design or breed crops with rooting characteristics that favor this kind of soil porosity and therefore that favor soil carbon stabilization, that would be a pretty smart way to design systems that can build carbon faster,” notes study co-author Phil Robertson.