Soils with Smart Carbon

Prof. Genxing Pan1

1Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, China

Enhancement of carbon storage in global soils has been urged as per the “C 4 per mil Initiative”, launched following “the Paris Agreement” for climate change mitigation. However, what kind of carbon should be increased or how the increased carbon could serve soil fertility and ecosystem functioning while mitigate climate change, has been not yet well understood. Global agricultural soils have been depleted organic carbon and therefore have a big potential to feed carbon. Any forms of organic carbon ultimately derived from biomass could help to build up soil C storage but their effects on carbon cycling and food production are widely variable. While to captured or stabilize C in soil, we need carbon to restore soil fertility and soil health and to promote plant growth and food quality, the “Smart C” in agriculture. Such carbon should have stable structure, high reactivity and bioactivity (for example, plant growth/metabolism promotion). Biochar, as an example, is engineered carbon from crop straw and functions in improving soil aggregation/structure, root growth and plant development, and in stabilizing potentially toxic metals, organic pollutants and even pathogenic microbes. The co-benefits to food production, soil/water conservation and environment protection should be assessed and accounted for in the fight against climate change. The characterization, processing and production, and application of smart carbon in agriculture deserve urgent international collaboration, particularly under the framework of “C 4 per mil” action.


Dr Genxing Pan is  a science leader of soil science in Nanjing Agricultural University. He has been devoted his main career to science and technology of soil carbon enhancement in agricultural, particularly of agrochar, in boosting soil C stock and crop productivity for climate change and food

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