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As atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) continue to rise it is imperative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the major producers, including the intensive agricultural system responsible for growing food to feed the human population. The soil that has been farmed for hundreds of years is being depleted of essential nutrients and is giving off more CO2 than it is taking in. The storing of Carbon (C), carbon sequestration, is the process of taking CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil as organic matter. This process is one of the best ways to remove atmospheric CO2, as soil stores 3 times more carbon compared to above ground biomass. Developing sustainable agricultural systems that can decrease greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously improving soil C is imperative. Increasing the number of plant species grown in a specific area has previously been shown to increase C sequestration. Diversity allows for complementary relationships among species that can increase overall root biomass and aboveground productivity. In an experiment underway at the Whittaker Environmental Research Station we are testing the effect of crop diversity on root production. We expect that the most diverse plots, containing the greatest number of species, will exhibit more overall root biomass and increased harvestable aboveground biomass than plots with a single species. The goal of this study is be able to provide a mixture of species that is able to produce adequate biomass to meet the needs of farmers while also improving soil health through C sequestration.
Kenwood, Matthew, "Getting to the ROOT of Climate Change: The Effects of Crop Diversity on Belowground Productivity" (2019). Biology Summer Fellows. 72.