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High level international meeting sets soil carbon monitoring and accounting agenda

12 May 2011

A world-class workshop organised by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) at Rothamsted Research has brought together top scientists from around the world to plan the future direction of standards and methodologies in the area of soil carbon monitoring and reporting. This will make a significant contribution to our knowledge of the role of soil in addressing climate change.

The group of experts from Europe, North America, South America, South and South East Asia, and Australia are assessing the current state of knowledge of the monitoring and reporting of soil carbon levels. They will also recommend actions for improvement in the immediate, intermediate and longer-term.

Soil carbon monitoring and management is a complex, important and emerging field; BBSRC and ETI organised this workshop as part of their efforts to ensure that it develops in line with the burgeoning global demands for bioenergy and industrial biotechnology industries, whilst recognising the same learning could apply more generally across the agricultural sector.

BBSRC Bioenergy Champion, Duncan Eggar said "We are tremendously grateful for the generous contributions of time and knowledge from the preeminent scientists who attended the workshop.

"It is vital that we set these standards now. The global bioenergy industry is growing and its success will rely largely on our ability to improve the efficiency of biomass crop production while at the same time ensuring the sustainability of the soils that provide those feedstocks. The direction we have gained from this workshop will provide us with a foundation for the use of biomass for energy and other products in the future."

ETI Chief Executive Officer, Dr. David Clarke said "Land-use change and agriculture are very significant sources of emissions globally. Annual emissions from agriculture and forestry account for over 30% of anthropogenic GHG emissions. The role of bioenergy in the world's energy system to 2050 is also likely to be significant. It is vital that we drive our understanding of the critical sustainability issues in this sector at the same time as accelerating the development of appropriate technologies for bioenergy production and use."

The initial outputs of the workshop will be a series of scientific papers published in peer reviewed journals. The papers will outline the challenges and opportunities of soil carbon monitoring in the context of biomass production. This will help to inform sustainable management of changing land use, as well as any shift towards biomass crops within agriculture; contribute to the future direction of research in this area; and help to inform policy for sustainability.

It is likely that, in particular, opportunities will emerge from this work to improve the overall sustainability of bioenergy. An improved appreciation of the flux of carbon into and out of the soil will complement our increasing knowledge of the roles of genetics, physiology and agronomic traits of bioenergy crops.

ENDS

About BBSRC

BBSRC is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £470M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the UK and beyond and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders, including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

BBSRC provides institute strategic research grants to the following:

  • The Babraham Institute
  • Institute for Animal Health
  • Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (Aberystwyth University)
  • Institute of Food Research
  • John Innes Centre
  • The Genome Analysis Centre
  • The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh)
  • Rothamsted Research

The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.