National Agricultural Soil Carbon Observatory
Eddy Covariance is a micrometeorlogical technique used to directly measure the rate of CO2 exchange between the atmosphere and terrestrial ecosystems. In 2021, The National Agricultural Soil Carbon Observatory (NASCO) was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM). Establishment is currently underway and will include 32 Eddy Covariance Flux Towers located on benchmark sites including agricultural grasslands, mineral soils and peatlands. The data generated will provide accurate, long-term information on the carbon dynamics of Irish agricultural systems. This will also complement the greenhouse gas research carried out as part of Teagasc Sign Post farms, Vista Milk, Terrain AI and the Agricultural Catchments Programme. Overall, NASCO will place Ireland at the forefront of international carbon research and will enable:
- Improved measurement, modelling and mapping of carbon uptake and release from agricultural land
- Accurate assessment of carbon sequestration according to climatic conditions, soil type and agricultural management practices
- Better understanding of the efficacy of mitigation measures to increase carbon sequestration
- National inventory and emission factor refinement
- Allow for participation in the EU ICOS (Integrated Carbon Observation System) network
Nasco 4 – Long term grazed grassland site with eddy covariance tower at Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford.
Nasco 5 - Eddy covariance tower deployed on a Tillage site in the Castledockrell catchment, Co. Wexford
Signpost Programme Soil Carbon Sampling
The first phase of a national soil sampling campaign was undertaken in 2021/22 across 104 Signpost Programme farms. Extensive soil sampling was performed on each farm to inform on the general nutrient status and gather preliminary information on soil organic carbon stocks. Ten centimetre core samples were taken across all Signpost farms, with further deep soil sampling scheduled to take place in 2022. Samples have been analysed for total carbon and organic carbon as well as pH and other major nutrients and trace elements. These analyses will act in tandem with the data from eddy covariance towers to help quantify soil carbon stocks and carbon sequestration rates on Irish farms. In turn, this will allow for a greater knowledge of sustainable land use management and will allow farmers to implement emission-reducing farming systems.
Technicians taking 10cm soil samples as part of the Signpost soil sampling campaign, Co. Roscommon.