Soil carbon sequestration will reduce the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere while improving America=s farmland and the nations’ agricultural economy.  The Consortium for Agricultural Soil Mitigation of Greenhouse Gases (CASMGS) will provide the information and technology necessary to develop, analyze and implement carbon sequestration strategies.

Concern has been mounting about the considerable buildup of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.  At present, the amount of CO2 in the air is increasing exponentially, by over 3 billion tons of carbon per year. This atmospheric buildup has been greatly accelerated by industrialization and the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas).  Crops and other plants remove CO2 from the atmosphere and, as they are harvested, their residue and roots are deposited into the soil where portions can remain for long periods as soil organic matter. Carbon accumulation in agricultural soils can be greatly improved by various forms of conservation management, such as no‑till and replanting with grasses.  This carbon sequestration occurs because there is less soil disturbance and more carbon is added to the soil.  Corollary benefits of carbon sequestration are increased soil fertility, reduced soil erosion and increased soil quality.

      To help reduce greenhouse gases, a new plan is emerging; sequester carbon in U.S. agricultural soils, which helps the soil and air and benefits the U.S. agricultural economy.  It has been estimated that 20‑40% of targeted emission reductions can be met by agricultural soil carbon sequestration. Under a private emission trading strategy, U.S. farmers, practicing appropriate conservation practices, could sell carbon "credits" to carbon emitters. Alternatively, government policies might be implemented to directly support farmers for implementing conservation management practices. Either strategy would help mitigate the rise of atmospheric CO2 (the dominant greenhouse gas) while the needed long‑term technical solutions are found for producing clean energy. Recent estimates of the potential for U.S. agriculture, using existing technologies, are on the order of 75-200 million metric tons C per year (see figure below).

      Early estimates indicate that the potential for a carbon "credits" market for U.S. agriculture is $1‑5 billion per year for the next 30-40 years.  Carbon markets are already emerging, as evidenced by the recent establishment of the Chicago Climate Exchange and the initiation of soil carbon projects in the Pacific Northwest and in several Midwest states.  If farmers are getting credit for their storage of carbon, they can better afford to adopt more environmentally friendly management practices.


Contribution of different conservation practices to carbon sequestration potential in the U.S. (From Lal, Kimble, Follett and Cole. 1998. The Potential of U.S. Cropland to Sequester Carbon and Mitigate the Greenhouse Effect. Ann Arbor Press)


Goals and Objectives


The goal of our consortium is to provide the tools and information needed to successfully implement soil carbon sequestration programs so that we may lower the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, while providing income and incentives to farmers and improving the soil. Such benefits include an increased and stable agricultural production and an overall reduction of soil erosion and pollution by agricultural chemicals.

The Consortium brings together the nation=s top researchers in the areas of soil carbon, greenhouse gas emissions, conservation practices, computer modeling and economic analysis.  Sophisticated information technology will be used to organize U.S. agricultural data, collected over decades, at a cost of millions of dollars, on soils, climate and management, and apply it to the problem of carbon sequestration.  Powerful computer models of agricultural ecosystems and economic systems are already being used by CASMGS for preliminary predictions of the potential for carbon sequestration, carbon trading markets and verification schemes.

The keys to successful implementation of carbon sequestration programs are accurate quantification and verification methods and tools to assess the impacts of policies and economic factors on carbon sequestration rates and the farm economy. Furthermore, policies to foster soil carbon sequestration will need to consider their economic impacts, as well as the potential collateral effects (both positive and negative) on other greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4)), nitrate and pesticide leaching and soil erosion.

Our specific objectives include:

·         Evaluate management practices for carbon sequestration rates for grassland and agricultural lands.

·         Identify other environmental benefits of carbon sequestering practices for air, soil and water quality.

·         Provide measurement and modeling tools to quantify and verify soil carbon sequestration rates to support CO2 emission reduction programs.

·         Provide assessment models to evaluate alternative national and global economic and policy strategies for carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas reductions. These models will provide insights on the impacts of such programs on crop production potential, food security and environmental quality.

·         Provide a standing capability to meet the rapid-response needs of federal agencies, Congress and the White House, for information, data and analysis on issues relating to soil carbon sequestration and soil greenhouse gas emissions.

·         Participate in the transfer to and adoption of technology by other countries for quantifying and verifying carbon sequestration rates.

·         Provide information to each of the following stakeholder groups: policy makers, agricultural sector, energy and transportation industries, the scientific community and the general public, through annual and special reports, scientific and trade journals, popular publications and an Internet website.

The magnitude of the greenhouse gas mitigation problem is huge and requires an effort of matching proportions.  When correctly instituted, the benefits will be substantial and long‑lasting.  CASMGS has received funding of $335,000 (through EPA) and $15 million (HR 2559) in FY 2001 and FY 2002 to initiate the Consortium’s research program. To continue this effort CASMGS was authorized funding in the 2002 Farm Bill.  CASMGS requests continued funding of $5 million per year.  Such funding would enable us to provide the R&D necessary to implement carbon sequestration and greenhouse mitigation strategies in agriculture.  The funds will be utilized by a consortium of expert scientists from Colorado State University, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Michigan State University, Montana State University, The Ohio State University, Purdue University, Texas A&M University System, University of Nebraska, and Battelle-Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and other university scientists as appropriate in conjunction with research groups within the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Economic Research Service and Natural Resource Conservation Service.


For further information visit the website: or contact:


Charles W. Rice, Director

2004 Throckmorton Plant Sciences Center

Department of Agronomy

Kansas State University

Manhattan, Kansas 66506-5501

Phone  785-532-7217     Fax  785-532-6094


Executive Committee:


Kansas State University                         Charles W. Rice        

Colorado State University                      Keith Paustian


Iowa State University                             Cathy Kling


Michigan State University                      Phil Robertson


Montana State University                      Susan Capalbo        


The Ohio State University                      Rattan Lal               


Pacific Northwest National Laboratories              Cesar Izaurralde      


Purdue University                                   Ron Turco              


Texas A & M University                         Neville Clarke         


University of Nebraska                           Shashi Verma