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Global assessment of soil carbon in grasslands

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Agriculture – Cropping pattern, Soil


Source: FAO

 Context: The first FAO Global assessment of Soil Carbon in Grasslands measured the baseline of stocks of Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) in both semi-natural and managed grasslands and estimated their potential for SOC sequestration.

  • The Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance Partnership (FAO LEAP Partnership) funded this study.


About Soil Organic Carbon:

  • Soil organic carbon (SOC) is the amount of carbon stored in soil organic matter. It is an important component of soil health and fertility, as it influences soil structure, nutrient cycling, water-holding capacity, and the ability of soil to support plant growth.
  • It shows the carbon held within the soil that is measurable, expressed as a percentage by weight (gC/Kg soil).


Benefits of SOC:



Findings of the report:

  • Grasslands contain approximately 20 per cent of the world’s SOC; have suffered losses because of human activities such as intensive livestock grazing, agricultural activities, and other land-use activities.
  • Most of the world’s grasslands have a positive carbon balance, meaning the land is stable or well-maintained.
    • However, negative carbon balance was found in East Asia, Central and South America, and Africa south of the Equator, meaning these stocks are likely to be decreasing due to anthropogenic stresses combined with climatic conditions.
  • The lack of incentives for farmers to improve management practices, and the current difficulty in accurately monitoring SOC stocks and changes are the main reasons that SOCs are not being included in the national climate plans known as National Determined Contributions (NDCs).


Suggestions given in the report:

  • Stimulating plant growth, capturing carbon in the soil, and protecting carbon in highly organic soils, such as semi-natural (non-human managed) grasslands.
  • In livestock management, implementing rotational, planned, or adaptative grazing measures for animals.
  • Improving management practices in grasslands— large areas covered with grass, especially used for animal grazing— can boost the capacity of soils as carbon sinks, and help countries reach their climate goal


Related News: FAO and SEED launch SDG Agrifood Accelerator Programme for innovators

Source: FAO

Context: FAO and the SEED partnership launched the SDG Agrifood Accelerator Programme, an instrument designed to help agrifood system start-ups develop their businesses while contributing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

  • The SDG Agrifood Accelerator Programme acknowledges that all 17 SDGs are interconnected and address challenges across a broad range of goals, from no poverty and zero hunger to good health, gender equality, and climate action.