Is Herbaceous Carbon Sequestration the Key to Lowering the Earth’s CO2 Levels?

The increased presence of CO2 in the air poses a number of threats as temperatures around the world rise. Farmers rely on consistent patterns and cycles to effectively cultivate their crops. Increased CO2 disrupts these cycles, ultimately leading to poor crop health and lower yields. It is also believed to be a cause behind the population declines of major pollinatorswhich are critical to the farming industry. 

By reducing the amount of carbon released into the air, stability can be restored, and farms can continue to thrive. 

However, it’s not enough to simply cut emissions. To lower the atmosphere’s current CO2 levels, we need to pull carbon from the air and store it through a process known as carbon sequestering.  

How Carbon Sequestering Works 

There are two primary ways of sequestering carbon: geological carbon sequestration and biological carbon sequestration. 

Geological carbon sequestration involves capturing CO2 as it’s released. Typically, it is then pressurized until it turns to liquid. From there, it is injected into underground rock formations. Though effective at reducing emissions and keeping excess carbon out of the air, it’s also expensive and the availability of the required technology is currently limited.  

Biological carbon sequestering offers a more accessible and scalable means of storing carbon and reducing CO2 levels. It involves strategically utilizing vegetation, soil, and other organic matter to house excess carbon. Plants and soil are natural carbon storers. Currently approximately 25% of global carbon emissions are captured by forests, grasslands, and other plant-rich landscapes 

By further enhancing and expanding the presence of these natural environments, more carbon can be stored and CO2 levels can be lowered. 

Woody Carbon Sequestration vs. Herbaceous Carbon Sequestration 

Woody carbon sequestration uses trees, shrubs, and lianas to store carbon. The most prominent sources of woody sequestration are forests, which have long played a vital role in reducing CO2 and producing oxygen for our planet 

The rise of deforestation has ran largely parallel with the increase of CO2 in the air. Modern initiatives are working to offset deforestation and promote woody sequestration through both reforestation (replanting trees where they once existed) and afforestation (planting trees where tree cover previously has not existed). 

While trees and forests are effective at storing carbon, there are shortcomings to woody sequestration. Forests are vulnerable to wildfires, as we’ve been reminded numerous times over the past year. These wildfires not only wipeout trees and threaten both human and animal populations, but they release massive amounts of stored carbon into the air. 

Scientists estimate that wildfires have emitted 8 billion tons of CO2 into the air every year for the past 20 years. 

Meanwhile, deforestation continues as trees are cleared for urban and agriculture expansion and lumber is harvested for materials and fuel. Though modern practices are doing a much better job of replacing old trees with new ones, this can take decades before it has any effect. 

Herbaceous carbon sequestration, on the other hand, relies on native grasses and forbs to store carbonMany of these plants have extensive root systems that are great for storing carbon long term, even if the stems, leaves, and flowers above the soil are destroyed. Native grasses and forbs also do a great job of protecting and nurturing soil. Healthy soil is much better at retaining and storing carbon itself 

Rangelands that house native grasses and forbs are more resilient to wildfires and droughts than forests. They can also be established in a shorter time frame. 

Woody sequestration and the protection of forests play an important role in controlling our world’s CO2 levels. However, herbaceous sequestration may ultimately hold the key to providing faster results, especially with the help of farmers and other landowners. 

As we said in our previous postincreased CO2 levels ultimately have a negative impact on agriculture. By establishing native grasses and forbs, farmers can help sequester carbon while also protecting and nurturing their soil. Programs like CRP provide a great opportunity for farmers to take part in carbon sequestration while still earning a profit on their land. 

By taking marginal land out of active production and establishing native vegetation, CRP contract holders receive market-based rental payments in addition to cost-share reimbursement for the establishment process. CRP has proven highly successful at sequestering carbon, storing an average of 49 million tons of greenhouse gases very year. 

This is the equivalent of taking 9 million cars off the road. 

If you’re interested in enrolling in CRP, FDCE can help. Our full-service CRP solutions handle the entire establishment process for you, from purchasing and planting CRP seed to documentation and report submission for cost-share reimbursement. With CRP and FDCE, sequestering carbon has never been simpler.