Sequestration of organic carbon in West African soils by Aménagement en Courbes de Niveau

Doumbia, Mamadou; Jarju, Ansumana; Ene, Modou S.; Traor E, Kalifa; Yost, Russell; Kablan, Richard; Brannan, Kevin; Berthe, Abou; Yamoah, Charles; Querido, Antonio; Traoré, Pierre C. S.; Ballo, Abdou
April 2009
Agronomy for Sustainable Development (EDP Sciences);Apr2009, Vol. 29 Issue 2, p267
Academic Journal
A recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) report concludes that global warming, while already a global crisis, is likely to become even more devastating. The scientific consensus is that global warming is caused by increases in greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide. The Sahel of West Africa seems to be more adversely affected by such climate changes, leading to reduced and more sporadic rainfall. In addition, food security in the region is tenuous and fragile, due to adverse climate change, but also due to the historical mining of nutrients and carbon. With the adoption of the Kyoto accords, at least by some countries, sequestered carbon (C) has become a tradable commodity. This provides a double incentive to increase soil organic carbon in the C-depleted and degraded soils of West Africa ? return C to improve soil quality and assist in removing CO2from the atmosphere to assist in mitigating climate change. A challenge, however, remains to determine which agricultural systems can actually sequester C. The technology called Am?nagement en courbes de niveau (ACN), which can be roughly translated as `Ridge-tillage'', has given crop yield increases of 30 to 50%. To date, there has only been anecdotal evidence suggesting that Am?nagement en courbes de niveau leads to increased soil organic C. The objectives of the study reported here were to determine whether the technology has the potential to sequester C in West African soils, and, if so, how much. In this study, soil organic C was measured by combustion methods in soils sampled at 0?20 and 20?40?cm depths in a series of experiments in Mali, Senegal and The Gambia. Soil organic C was measured in three very different types of experiments, all including Am?nagement en courbes de niveau technology, resulting in three methods of measuring C sequestration. Our results indicate that the Am?nagement en courbes de niveau technology significantly increased maize yields by 24% by weight in the Gambia experiment while soil organic C was increased by 26% in The Gambia, by 12% in Siguidolo, Mali, and by 14% in peanut systems of Nioro, Senegal. These increases in soil organic C are likely due to three factors: (1) reduced erosion and movement of soil, (2) increased crop growth resulting from the greater capture of rainfall, and (3) increased growth and density of shrubs and trees resulting from the increased subsoil water, resulting in turn from the increased capture of rainfall, and reduced runoff. Measuring soil C on fields that were successively placed under Am?nagement en courbes de niveau management and the use of replicated experimental plots appear to be the best methods to quantify the C sequestration potential of the practice. These results indicate that this soil and water conservation technology not only harvests water and increases food production, but also increases soil organic carbon. This technology thus is a successful technique to sequester C in soils and if carried out in a large region may both offset CO2emissions and help mitigate climate change.


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