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Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Division of Resource Economics & Management


Existing research provides estimates of the biophysical potential for increasing soil organic carbon (SOC) stock, however additional research is needed to enhance our understanding of the economic potential for agricultural soils to offset or help reduce CO2emissions. This study derives the marginal cost to increase SOC sequestration by combining SOC sequestration potential estimates developed using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) factors with an existing payment scheme that was designed to increase no-till (NT) adoption on U.S. cropland. The marginal costs of increasing SOC is a function of the amount of SOC that could be increased through NT and the expected cost to landowners of changing management to use NT.


The variability in SOC sequestration rates due to different land-use, management histories, climate, and soils, combined with the 48 unique payment rates to adopt NT, yield over 5,000 unique marginal cost values for increasing SOC sequestration. Nearly 95 percent of the biophysical potential SOC sequestration increase on U.S. cropland (2802 Tg CO2 from 140.1 Tg CO2 year−1 for 20 years) could be captured for less than $100 Mg−1CO2. An estimated 64 to 93 percent of the biophysical potential could be captured for less than the low and high estimated costs to capture CO2 for geologic storage of $36.36 to $86.06 Mg−1 CO2, respectively.


Decreasing tillage intensity through adoption of no-till agriculture offers a cost-effective way to offset a portion of increasing global CO2 emissions. This research demonstrates that increasing SOC stocks through NT adoption can offset CO2 emissions at a lower cost than some other options for preventing CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

Source Citation

Sperow, M. What might it cost to increase soil organic carbon using no-till on U.S. cropland?. Carbon Balance Manage 15, 26 (2020).


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This article received support from the WVU Libraries' Open Access Author Fund.

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