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Study Finds Cover Crops Increase Water Quality, Not Carbon Storage

Iowa State University scientists published a study in Global Change Biology Bioenergy that showed cover crops stimulating microbes deep in the soil can lead to improved water quality by preventing nutrient loss. However, the study also found that because the stimulated microbes consume the carbon in the cover crop, carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere and that carbon is not sequestered in the soil. “Greater plant growth doesn’t necessarily mean gains in carbon sequestration if microbial activity also increases,” explained co-author Steven Hall.