Soil structure, cover crops, no-till, and measuring carbon — a LIVE! Q&A with Mario Tenuta


Soil management, soil structure, and soil health have all become incredibly important topics in all crop and pasture planning conversations. Many of those conversations centre on one particularly complicated topic: carbon. What is it? How do we add it to soil? How do we keep it there?

If there’s one person who can at least begin to answer those questions for Canadian farmers, it’s Dr. Mario Tenuta, soil scientist with the University of Manitoba. In this episode of RealAg LIVE!, Tenuta explains how carbon exists and cycles in soil, how tillage impacts carbon, and so much more.

Don’t miss RealAg LIVE! weekdays at 1 pm M/3 pm E on your favourite social media platform!


  • Soil structure! So much depends on soil structure and soil aggregates.
  • And that comes down to organic matter. OM!
  • Soil structure and soil health isn’t just about adding carbon, it’s also about protecting that carbon (because soil bugs love them some carbon)
  • Where does livestock fit into carbon sequestration? Diversity is good, team.
  • What helps build soil health? Perennial crops, keep the ground covered, and physically protected. Lots of root contribution to soil carbon!
  • Back to livestock, how does grazing and haying work in to this? Haying removes the top part of the plant, which does kill some roots and that moves carbon into the soil microbe population (cycled). Livestock (grazing) in rotation means you’re putting carbon below ground.
  • Recipe for success? Direct seeding,
  • You will always mine it/burn through it faster than you can build it. Keep that in mind.
  • Next leap? Next practice?
  • There’s real potential in cover crops, though moisture is a big factor and how much heat/GDDs post-harvest
  • Increase overall productivity of land, right?
  • With cover crops and crop rotation, remember different above ground growth looks different below ground too. Rooting depths, water use at time of year, all of it.
  • Could help with pathogens and pests as well.
  • Other practices? Controlled traffic, maybe
  • There’s frustration, too. Why aren’t we acknowledged for our carbon sequestering practices? It’s nuanced. Sometimes people get mad and angry.
  • How we assess carbon emissions worldwide is variable, but how science measures soil carbon is agreed on, but what happens after, that’s different


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