Identify Management Effects on Soil Organic Matter Dynamics and Strategies for Regeneration

Agricultural land worldwide has lost a large portion of its original soil organic matter, degrading soil health and its ability to provide ecosystem services, including fertility provisioning and climate regulation. Adaptive principles of regenerative management, such as increasing inputs by maintaining a continuous and diversified plant cover and live roots in the soil, reducing disturbance, and adaptively integrating and managing livestock, show high promise to accrue soil organic matter as well as recycle fertility in agricultural land. However, results are highly context dependent. Informing effective regenerative practice requires a clear, quantitative understanding of the drivers of soil organic matter formation, turnover, and stabilization at local to global scales, and of the mechanisms by which different regenerative principles synergistically or in isolation affect it. To this end, we apply the separation of soil organic matter into physical fractions, such as the light particulate organic matter, organic matter associated to the coarse heavy soil fraction, and the mineral associated organic matter in field experiments, on farm surveys, and global data synthesis.

Soil Innovation Lab team conducting a soil core sample in the field<br />

Image credit Will Brinkerhoff

core sample

Image credit Erik Makic

Future Directions and Goals

Work is ongoing in the SoIL to:

  1. Determine overall responses of POM and MAOM to regenerative management practices in croplands and grasslands.
  2. Understand the modifiers of the SOM, POM and MAOM responses to regenerative management.