Can Dirt Really Save Us From Global Warming?
This month the Senate is set to take up the climate and energy bill that Congress began work on last spring. One provision will likely set up a system to pay farmers for something called "no-till farming."
The concept: When crops are planted without tilling, the soil holds more carbon, which means less goes up into the atmosphere.
But scientists aren't sure no-till really sequesters carbon any better than conventional farming.
Soil scientist Michel Cavigelli of the U.S. Department of Agriculture agrees that no-till fields, like the one he studies in rural Maryland, can hold more carbon than plowed fields.
But that is only at the surface. Researchers have discovered that when you dig down three feet or so, plowed fields hold just as much — if not more — carbon than no-till.