Soil Carbon

Did you know that farmland is capable of fighting climate change?

It’s true! A vital part of agricultural soil is the soil organic matter within it. As carbon is a building block for all life on Earth, when organic matter (like plant residue) is incorporated into the soil, so is carbon. This carbon then stays within the soil rather than entering the atmosphere, which can help mitigate climate change.

With this year’s Farmland Forum theme being “Planning to Save the Soil” we thought there would be no better time explore what soil carbon is and why it is important.

Soil carbon is a vital component of healthy soil. It plays an important role in maintaining soil health, and can help sustain agricultural productivity1. Soil organic matter (SOM), which consists of plant and animal residues, is the main source of soil carbon. The accumulation of soil carbon in the form of soil organic matter is essential for maintaining soil fertility and productivity1.

SOM is essential for maintaining soil health, and can improve soil structure and moisture-holding capacity, which in turn enhances nutrient cycling and can even help prevent erosion2. SOM is also one of the largest carbon sinks on Earth, storing three times the amount of carbon than what is currently in the atmosphere. Sequestering carbon within agricultural soils has huge potential, and with the right management practices our farmland could be a major player in the fight against climate change.

Farm management practices such as cover cropping and conservation tilling can have beneficial effects on SOM levels2. Many farmers in Ontario are taking action to measure the SOM in their soils and trying different methods of improving it, both for the health of their soil and as an action to benefit the environment2. The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) is doing great work to promote practices that can help sequester carbon and improve soils, and they even have cost-share programs that can help farmers implement these practices.

Soil carbon is an essential component of soil health, agricultural productivity and the mitigation of climate change1. The management of farming practices to maintain or increase soil organic matter levels is vital in the preservation of soil health and has the potential to make a big difference for the future. It is essential that policymakers, farmers, and researchers work together to promote sustainable farming practices that prioritize soil health and allow for the continued sequestration of carbon in soils.

Our annual Farmland Forum works to bring farmers, researchers, policy makers, and conservationists together to discuss topics like this! This year our theme is “Planning to Save the Soil”, where we will explore the social, economic, and environmental considerations for protecting the foundation of our farmland and agri-food sector: Ontario’s soil. Join us for talks and panels about soil microbiology, complete communities, soil preservation, Indigenous knowledge of farming, and more!

Check out our Farmland Forum page for more details and to register.  


  1. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved from
  2. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. NEW HORIZONS Ontario’s Agricultural Soil Health and Conservation Strategy. Retrieved from