$8.1M+ in Private Gifts Invigorate Greenhouse Gas Research in Agriculture

close up of soybean plants in a farmers field

NC State’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences is delighted to announce a series of planned and current gifts totaling over $8M to enhance the study of greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation through agriculture. The gifts include an immediate $1.1M+ to jumpstart several new and existing GHG studies by an interdisciplinary team of university researchers. The group seeks to reconcile agricultural and environmental stewardship while strengthening North Carolina’s bioeconomy.

Unearthing and Scaling Improvements

With almost 40% of land in agricultural production worldwide, improvements in GHG knowledge and management carry the potential for vast beneficial climate impact. The current gift funds research to test soil carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation strategies, and also to create a pipeline for evaluating and scaling best practices.

“Our donors are committed to seeing this-lifetime impact in GHGs contribution to climate change. We recognize both agriculture’s role in GHG emissions and the prime mitigation opportunity. These gifts assert confidence that agriculture can be part of the solution,” said Chris Reberg-Horton, a professor in crop and soil sciences.

Improving Soil Carbon & Reducing Greenhouse Gases

close up of charred carbon pieces
Biochar is a promising option for soil carbon storage.

Carbon sequestration has become both a hot topic and commodity. But research shows that the soil carbon storage capacity is directly linked to local soil and climate conditions. Long-term carbon storage proves challenging in warm, humid regions where soil carbon is fleeting. 

Researchers plan to investigate novel practices including enhanced biochar to add soil carbon, rock minerals to capture carbon dioxide, mixed forestry-cropping systems, and alternative fertilizers. One effort seeks to optimize soil-biochar interactions for prolonged carbon storage in temperate soil environments by testing various biochar processing methods. Researchers hope to convert locally available crop residue and waste (wood chips and poultry manure) into stable soil carbon. 

Impacts of Increasing Soil Salinity

Additional work will include the study of soil-carbon changes in response to increased salinity from sea level rise or saltwater flooding from hurricanes. Data will allow soil scientists to identify and predict farmland loss and crop productivity decline due to salt intrusion. Results could impact salt-tolerant crop recommendations, carbon crediting strategies, wetland restoration policy, and potential land retirement subsidies. 

aerial view of a flooded corn field
A flooded corn field in NC’s coastal Hyde County.

Positioned for Progress

NC State is well-suited to lead these solution-driven studies. North Carolina’s variety of soils, climates and agricultural systems are representative of those in the tropical and subtropical world. Pioneering work at NC State was key in developing early soil management in Brazil, Peru and elsewhere. 

NC State has the unique capacity and network to propel research results into practice through our broad Extension partnerships. Substantial knowledge gains from these investigations will also invite collaboration across the country and internationally as we optimize agronomic recommendations with real-world practicality.

distant view of a crowd in a corn field
NC State Extension hosts field day events and workshops to support NC growers. Photo from 2019.

A Legacy of Leadership

Private funding of this magnitude will anchor our knowledge in reliable outcomes benefiting agriculture in NC and globally.

Private philanthropy is fundamental to our mission in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Through the generosity of our donors, we expand our abilities to teach, conduct research and apply our knowledge through our extension service.  In this case, our donors “want to be able to tell their children and grandchildren what they did when confronted with one of the global challenges facing our world.” 

“This series of gifts is truly transformative – elevating our research enterprise on reducing GHG emissions through agriculture. Private funding of this magnitude will anchor our knowledge in reliable outcomes benefiting agriculture in NC and globally. We are grateful and emboldened in this pursuit,” said Jeff Mullahey department head of crop and soil sciences.

Growing the Future

Crop and Soil Sciences’ research impacts citizens, farmers and students. Follow how our innovations affect agriculture and environmental science by joining our weekly newsfeed.

If you are a student interested in weed science or precision agriculture, investigate our undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Then join us for a guided email tour of our department and university.  Enhancing NC agriculture through climate research is part of how we are growing the future.