• Carmit Oron

Contribution of Alfalfa to soil carbon sequestration to meet the climate challenge.

Updated: Apr 11

The agricultural world has been abuzz with conversations regarding sustainability,

regenerative agriculture, and carbon credits.

Climate change is considered one of the most important environmental challenges of the present century. Storing atmospheric CO2 in the soil is a key strategy for mitigating climate change.

Soil organic carbon (SOC) is crucially significant in sustaining soil quality, crop production and environmental quality.

How to enhance the potential of the soil C pool to sequester soil carbon, and thus alleviate the rate of increase of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, has become an important research area globally.

In grassland ecosystems, more than 90% of the organic carbon is present in roots and soils. The roots and shoots of cover crops feed bacteria, fungi, earthworms and other soil organisms, which increases soil carbon levels over time.

Cultivated land to forage grasses has the potential to increase C and N sequestration. Alfalfa is the most widely cultivated forage legume. With approximately 30 million hectares planted worldwide, Alfalfa residue improves the structure of soil: roots are

deep and they can improve soil structure and capacity for water and air.

Alfalfa has been used as hay, silage, grazing, green-chop, or rotation crop. The forage seed industry, including that for alfalfa seeds for sowing, is flourishing in developed regions, where the availability of quality forage seeds is high.Moreover, farmers are willing to pay for the high prices of seeds.

Alfalfa has the ability to “fix” nitrogen.

Soil carbon and nitrogen sequestration are long-term biotic processes that are affected by climate. Changes in SOC often lead to differences in soil total N, because organic forms generally account for more than 95% of the soil N.

Due to this fixation and other factors, nitrogen availability from the soil is typically enhanced when alfalfa is terminated. This contribution is often referred to as a “nitrogen credit.” For this reason, N fertilization can often be reduced or eliminated for one to three years following alfalfa termination.

Salicrop Field trials at Beit She’an Valley

The Beit She’an area is a unique agricultural area due to a combination of warm and dry climate. The soils of the Beit She’an Valley, one of the most important agricultural areas in Israel, consist of brown clay soils and calcritic soils, The soil stratification influences the potential to drain and wash excess salts that accumulate during the irrigation season, which preserve ventilated root conditions. Poor drainage conditions impedes plant development, and salt accumulation in the root zone causes plant degeneration.

The soils of the Beit She’an Valley were selected for Salirop’s research since it is one of the most important agricultural areas in Israel.

In many areas the Electrical conductivity (EC) measurement in the fields is between 3-6 EC.The irrigation water sources in the area are of variable quality: springs and Jordan River water are considered of acceptable quality (fresh), while groundwater and effluent water might be of poor quality (brackish).

Salicrop’s field trials in Alfalfa are showing a significant increase of yield which has the potential to contribute to soil carbom sequestration.

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