Conservation tillage may help fight global warming

By Tom Lollis

Conservation tillage – disturbing the soil as little as possible – may help reduce atmospheric carbon related to global warming, according to research by scientists at Clemson and the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

“Helping prevent soil erosion, increasing rainwater infiltration and improving soil quality are still the top reasons to convert to conservation tillage,” said Jim Frederick, Clemson agronomist. However, some Midwestern farmers receive about $1.70 per ton of carbon dioxide on the Chicago Climate Exchange, a voluntary greenhouse gas emission and trading system. That amounts to about $1 per acre. “It’s too expensive for South Carolina farmers to be certified at the moment, but it could work one day for larger acreages,” Frederick said.

“It takes five to eight years to build up appreciable amounts of organic carbon under conservation tillage,” said Jeff Novak, a USDA-ARS scientist. “This is a long time, but a little patience can go a long way in improving soil quality while reducing greenhouse gas CO2 emissions.”

For more information: Jim Frederick, 843-669-1912, ext. 228,; Jeff Novak, 843-669-5203, ext. 110,