Storing high levels of carbon and nitrogen in soils can lead to increased nitrous oxide emissions, offsetting any greenhouse gas sink benefits.
That’s according to a new study published by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), which suggests although plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stabilise it in the soil, some land management practices have been shown to significantly affect this.
Following a series of tests and modelling experiments, JRC scientists found significant carbon dioxide mitigation can be achieved in the initial 20 to 30 years of any soil carbon management scheme, meaning soil can and will be used to mitigate climate change.
However, nitrogen inputs from things such as fertilisers should be controlled to counteract nitrous oxide emissions from the soil.
JRC Agricultural Scientist Emanuele Lugato said: “The model showed that practices based on crop residue retention and lower soil disturbance tend not to increase nitrous oxide emissions as long as carbon accumulation continues, which is likely until around 2040.”