Carbon farming: Combining machine intelligence, big data and process models to support this emerging sector

Restoration of soil organic carbon plays a critical role in addressing climate change while improving agricultural efficiency and reversing land degradation. However, scaling up of soil carbon sequestration is impeded by the high cost of monitoring, and by high levels of uncertainty in soil carbon predictions. Current soil organic carbon maps are based only on spatial interpolation of geographic, environmental, and climatic co-variates. As such, they do not distinguish the impacts of land management, including factors such as tillage regimes, crop rotations, crop and varietal selection, residue management, manure management, irrigation, cover crops, soil and water conservation etc. To provide an improved soil carbon maps that include these factors, we will train and validate machine learning and deep learning models using detailed spatial data on soils, vegetation, climate, and cropping practices. This project aims to create a step change in the accuracy of prediction of soil organic carbon by combining Cornell’s state-of-the-art soil mechanistic modeling with machine learning, deep learning, and spatially-explicit big data to create a “grey-box digital twin”. This will provide a platform to drive evidence-based policy and support massive scaling up of optimized investment in soil health and climate-change mitigation.

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