Soil Carbon Challenge: Monitoring

How can a competition to turn atmospheric carbon into soil organic matter be monitored, practically as well as accurately, using technology that is widely available?

I'm a soil scientist who has been searching around for ways to make baseline soil carbon measurements to track increases (or decreases) in the future. Nothing I found can give an accurate quantity of soil carbon on a tract of land without taking so many samples that the cost of the measurements would be far greater than the value of the soil carbon increase (to a 95% confidence level).

I did find this method proposed by scientists in the EU for measuring the change in soil C. It sounds kind of reasonable to me (after reading it several times). Anyone have any comments on it?


Richard, thanks for the prod. The AFRSS system is ingenious, though I'm not a statistician.

There is an Arcview GIS script for laying out grids at but I do not see anything for more ordinary computing capabilities. It's possible to imagine software (or a spreadsheet) that would calculate the grid given the coordinates of the north, south, east, and west extremes--so that neither internet access nor expensive software would be required for field sampling, just a GPS, start by traveling the perimeter.

Also, I would note that the so-called market need not be the sole determinant of the value of soil carbon. Soil carbon accrual may lend value to agricultural operations in terms of productivity, drought resistance, and market placement or customer appeal, for example, in ways that are difficult to quantify.

There's an application here, outputs in excel or html. I tried the html and it froze Firefox browser. I didn't really understand the Excel output.