U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version

July 2006


Published by the Soil and Water Conservation Society, 2006.


As communities and a country, we have a monumental task to solve the energy and global climate change problems, while maintaining our capacity to produce food, feed, and fiber for an ever increasing world population. The severity of these problems is exacerbated by the universal desire for an increased standard of living, which invariably translates to more energy use, greater demand for products, and higher quality diets (usually in the form of more fresh fruits and vegetables and more animal protein). Agriculture and forestry are in a unique position as we attempt solve these opposing problems in the most beneficial manner. To address the food and feed issue, agriculture will likely consume more energy and aggravate the energy consumption and climate change situation, at least in the short term. However, soils have a tremendous capacity to sequester carbon (C) (Figure 1), if managed wisely, offering agriculture an exceptional opportunity to remove carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere. Use of agricultural biomass for energy can also be part of our energy solution. Research is being conducted to determine how much, when and where biomass can be removed without soil and/or environmental degradation. A balanced, sustainable approach is critical to solving the related problems of global warming, limited fossil fuel, and food production for the long term. Solutions to the energy and global warming problem must include soil conservation, curbing energy use, and utilization of other renewable energy sources (e.g. solar, wind) to be effective.