Tuesday, April 18, 2006

New on-site carbon measurement device

The US Department of Energy recently announced that its scientists have developed "a device that can measure carbon and other elements in soils non-destructively and in situ." The device is mounted on a cart and is "field-deployable".
This instrument uses neutron activation to determine how much carbon is sequestered in soils. It has been undergoing modifications and field tests for a year.
In the past, soil carbon measurement was done by taking samples from small cores or large excavations to a laboratory.
With this device, operators can sample a large volume at the site so that normal lateral fluctuations are smoothed out.
Unlike other soil carbon measurement technologies, which are destructive, this device allows for multi-elemental soil analysis. It can also be used in a scanning mode, allowing scientists to obtain average values of a large area.
"The device may be of particular interest to farmers worldwide, who have been switching in increasing numbers from conventional agriculture methods that turn the soil to what is called "no-till" farming. Since carbon generally improves soil fertility, it will allow farmers to determine when soil conditions are ideal.
There is another reason the farmers may want to keep track of how much carbon is present in their soils, says the DOE press release. "Photosynthesis sequesters carbon in the root systems of plants and finally in the soil. Switching from till to no-till agriculture increases carbon sequestration and farmers will want to be able to verify the amount of carbon stored.
Since carbon sequestration removes carbon from the atmosphere, thus mitigating the global warming, this will allow the farmers to receive carbon credits."

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