Maintaining soil organic matter is critical to tackling climate change because soil organic matter is rich in carbon. Soil carbon is also the keystone element controlling soil health, which enables soils to be resilient as droughts and intense rainfall events increasingly occur.
Given this tremendous importance of soil carbon, are economic incentives and programs helping Canadian farmers maintain and enhance soil carbon on their farms?
On the Prairies, farm soil carbon levels have stabilized or increased over the past few decades, largely as a result of adoption of no-till cropping, which avoids disturbing the soil while growing a crop. In Eastern Canada, however, most estimates suggest that the intensity of crop production (especially reduced use of forage crops) is causing soil carbon levels to decline. This situation is made more challenging by the fact that in higher moisture regions such as Eastern Canada and British Columbia no-till cropping does not enhance soil carbon. This contrasting soil carbon performance of Eastern and Western Canadian farms could even be a politically sensitive issue.