Marginal cost to increase soil organic carbon using no-till on U.S. cropland

  • Mark SperowEmail author
Original Article


Recent global agreements on greenhouse gas emission reductions have reinforced the need to develop cost-effective offset programs that can be implemented to help augment emission reductions. One approach to offset carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions may be to increase soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks by reducing soil disturbance by changing from conventional tillage (CT) to no tillage (NT). In this analysis, the cost to increase SOC sequestration achieved on cropland by changing from CT to NT is estimated. The marginal cost of increasing SOC is determined by the amount SOC can be increased and the difference in profit of changing from conventional to no-till. Landowner costs and profit are derived from crop enterprise budgets, county yield data, and regional crop prices. A risk factor is also used to increase the cost of no-till adoption to account for the apparent reluctance of landowners to adopt no-till. The SOC sequestration potential on corn (Zea mays) and soybean (Glycine max) cropland combined is about 49.1 Tg CO2 year−1 (1 Tg = 1012 g) of which 47.6 Tg CO2 year−1 (nearly 97%) could be attained for less than $20-Mg−1 CO2 (1 Mg = 106 g). When the risk factor is included in the assessment, over 19.7 Tg CO2 year−1 could be attained for less than $20-Mg−1 CO2. The analysis demonstrates that SOC sequestration through changes from CT to NT on corn and soybean land could economically offset a portion of CO2 emissions.


CO2 emission offsets Soil organic carbon IPCC Marginal cost curves 


Funding information

This work was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch Project 1014586. Scientific Article No. 3335 of the West Virginia Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, Morgantown, WV. Funding for this research was partially provided by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service and the West Virginia Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Natural ResourcesWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA

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