Emerging opportunities for carbon markets and carbon sequestration caught the attention of scholars at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Everyone from agronomists and economists to livestock specialists and bioproducts researchers are involved in the effort to identify new opportunities and define the science of carbon as it relates to agriculture. .
“Carbon” becomes a useful shorthand for entering many related topics, including soil organic matter, energy efficiency, capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reducing carbon dioxide emissions and others. greenhouse gas.
At this year’s Farm Progress Show, a team of specialists will be on hand to help explain the latest advances in carbon science and answer questions from the public.
“This really is an interdisciplinary topic, and the solutions and opportunities are interdisciplinary,” says Jim Jordahl, project analyst at ISU’s Biorenewables Research Laboratory. “We believe there are going to be emerging opportunities in livestock manure management, agronomy and biomass fuels.”
The Carbon Display will feature large computer screens that explain agricultural carbon markets, how carbon can be managed on the farm, and the types of products that can be made from it.
Jordahl says many Iowans already have some carbon awareness, but he hopes the display will help expand public understanding of the possibilities and the work being done at ISU.
“Our intention is to convey the information we currently have about carbon markets and practices relevant to Iowa, and summarize it in a way that people will understand and appreciate,” he says.
A new product includes a 281-page report convened by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ carbon sequestration task force. Released in February, “Carbon Science for Carbon Markets: Emerging Opportunities in Iowa” provides a detailed overview of the progress, opportunities, and challenges in establishing carbon markets in Iowa.
For those who want something shorter to read, they can check out a short graphic summary, which gives a synopsis of carbon sequestration, and how agriculture can participate and benefit from it.
Much of the state is estimated to have lost 50% of its original carbon to the soil, but through practices such as no-till, extensive crop rotations, cover crops, strips grassland and nitrogen management, Iowa is well positioned to store carbon and increase its soil organic matter along the way.
“Iowa is uniquely positioned to create carbon value,” according to the summary report. “We have the advantage of having excellent soils and usually enough rainfall to produce crops without irrigation.”
Carbon credit payments to farmers are only one piece of the puzzle. Good carbon management also often leads to increased nitrogen use efficiency, improved water quality and improved wildlife habitat.
Carbon can also be captured and transformed into useful products such as biochar, an organic product obtained by heating biomass from crop residues, wood and perennial grasses. Known as pyrolysis, this heating process yields a product that can be added to fields, gardens or yards as a versatile and long-lasting (centuries or more) soil amendment.
Pyrolysis also produces a thick, viscous liquid known as bio-oil, which can be refined into renewable diesel fuel or bio-asphalt, replacing the need for petroleum-based asphalt. Jordahl says the team will have samples of both products at the show, so visitors can see two practical examples of what can be made from carbon.
Heating is done inside a machine called a pyrolyzer. ISU’s Institute of Bioeconomy has developed its own demonstration-scale pyrolyzer, which in April was recognized with a $1 million award from XPrize Carbon Removal.
Agronomists speak of sequestration
Extension agronomists will also be on hand to explain how agronomic practices can increase the amount of carbon sequestered. Agricultural Field Engineer Brian Dougherty will discuss the agronomic and livestock potential for carbon sequestration.
There will also be copies of a recent report by ISU Extension economist Alejandro Plastina, which compares and contrasts existing carbon credit companies.
Titled “How to Develop and Sell Carbon Credits in US Agriculture,” the 11-page report provides a simple overview of existing carbon credit companies and markets.
“The menu of carbon programs is growing every day, and there are multiple routes to participate in carbon markets,” says Plastina. “We want to present alternatives and their implications for farmers’ operations.”
ISU staff and faculty will be at the Carbon Expo each day of the show, to help answer questions and explain the latest trends in carbon science.
“We want the public to see that carbon science is a moving picture, with a lot of financial support and interest,” Jordahl said. “There are next-generation farming practices and products to learn about, and these are exciting times for farming.”
Kick written for ISU Extension.