The Soil Organic Carbon Network (SOCnet) is a farmer-scientist collaboration monitoring long-term effects of farming practices on soil carbon (SOC) and other soil health metrics in the Upper Midwest. SOCnet is a network for accurately monitoring SOC change and helping farmers evaluate carbon-market opportunities. SOCnet links producer-driven on-farm research with long-term cropping systems experiments in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota, that serve as “hubs” for the network and play a critical role in our understanding of SOC change. On-farm sites complement long-term experiments providing essential information about how “real world” farming and environmental variation affect SOC dynamics.
Many farming practices are promoted for their ability to improve soil health and sequester carbon (think cover crops, no-till, and manure addition). With commitments to carbon-neutral futures, both the private and public sectors are seeking ways to incentivize and reward farmers for carbon sequestration. But the “hype” around on-farm carbon sequestration is confusing and tends to look past contradictory scientific findings. It takes years to detect SOC change and long-term monitoring commitments and funding are difficult to secure. It is essential that we invest the time and rigor necessary to get these numbers “right”. Underestimating carbon sequestration means that farmers are not fully compensated for an important service to society. Overestimating carbon sequestration on the other hand exacerbates climate change, fuels extreme weather, and undermines food security.
Who is involved in SOCnet?
SOCnet is comprised of farmers from Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Some are conducting on-farm experiments to evaluate the carbon sequestration potential of new practices on SOC stocks, while others are tracking well-established management practices on-farm. The scientific team includes faculty and staff at Iowa State University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
How can I learn more about SOCnet?
To learn more about the work SOCnet is doing or to inquire about participating in the network please reach out to Dr. Gregg Sanford (firstname.lastname@example.org).