Project ID



A gap in transitioning to ecologically beneficial farming practices is the lack of understanding of how soils store carbon (C) and nitrogen (N)long term. Farmers need management practices for improving soil quality, increasing both belowground (live roots) and aboveground (live cover) biomass, increasing soil organic matter, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This project quantified root productivity, root decomposition, soil microbial dynamics, soil aggregation, and belowground C allocation in annual and perennial biomass cropping systems across multiple landscape positions.

Key Question

How do plants and microorganisms interact to influence soil organic matter storage?


By examining crop-microbe interactions in multiple landscape positions, PIs identified which cropping systems were best suited to increase soil carbon storage. They found that across all landscape positions switchgrass had more roots than corn, which increased the activity of soil microorganisms, especially when crops were full grown. More roots and greater microbial activity coincided with greater soil aggregation. Soil aggregation is important for storing carbon, nitrogen and water.

Principal Investigator(s)

Kirsten Hofmockel


Lisa A. Schulte Moore, Thomas M. Isenhart, Randy Kolka

Year of Grant Completion