A NEW practical guide to assessing soil carbon promises to answer farmers’ key questions at a time when many are looking to understand their soil health.

Produced by Duchy College, Plymouth University, Rothamsted Research and the Farm Carbon Toolkit, the guide lists and answers key questions for robust on-farm monitoring of soil carbon and associated indicators of soil health. This is particularly significant given the recent announcement of the Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme, which is reliant on a consistent approach to soil sampling.

“In the Soil Carbon Project we were trying to understand the relationship between farm management practices and levels of soil organic matter, as well as issues around how we monitor soil carbon,” said Stephen Roderick, project management at Duchy College.

Carbon sequestration plays a key part in climate change mitigation, but soil carbon’s importance goes beyond sequestering as much as possible, says Andy Neal, research scientist at Rothamsted. “What’s much more iidmportant are the co-benefits of getting organic matter into soil – organic matter affects how much water and nutrients the soil can store, and can limit the carbon footprint,” he said.

Tips in the guide include those on soil sampling, location, equipment and analysis.

The practical guide, which is based on the latest research, will help farmers, advisers and researchers to adopt the most consistent techniques for monitoring soil carbon – which will become increasingly important as focus on carbon intensifies, says Mr Roderick. “Robust estimates of soil carbon stocks can be a complicated subject; this guide is designed in collaboration with our research partners to answer those key questions.”

The practical guide is now available on the Farm Carbon Toolkit website: Launch of Guide on Monitoring Soil Carbon – Farm Carbon Toolkit.