Project ID



Planting trees on poor quality cropland may yield some benefits for increasing soil organic carbon. Test plots in four parts of Iowa were examined to determine the level of benefits possible to achieve.

Key Question

Would converting highly erodible, low productivity cropland to forestry practices increase soil organic matter content in the surface layers and lead to improved soil quality and related ecosystem assets of these lands?


At four contrasting locations across the state, planting trees did result in a relatively rapid and sustained increase in surface soil organic matter content. This result suggests that conversion of marginal agricultural lands to forestry practices will improve soil quality and has potential to enhance related ecosystem assets associated with water quality and availability, nutrient cycling and carbon storage.

Principal Investigator(s)

Thomas Sauer


David E. James, Cynthia A. Cambardella

Year of Grant Completion