Carbon Cycle Institute

The Carbon Cycle Institute (CCI) advances the carbon cycle as the fundamental

organizing process underlying land management and on-farm conservation in

our efforts to mitigate and adapt to the global climate crisis. 

The Carbon Cycle: 
Natural & Working Lands

As much as one-third of the surplus carbon dioxide (CO2)  in the atmosphere driving climate change has resulted from land management practices, including agriculture. We can reverse this trend and help restore balance within the carbon cycle by intentionally managing land to maximize carbon capture and storage. 

Increasing photosynthetic CO2 removal from the atmosphere through enhanced management of our natural and working lands offers the largest available pathway to draw down atmospheric carbon. Climate beneficial land management practices, by definition, increase the rate of transfer of atmospheric carbon dioxide to plant material and the soil organic carbon pool.

The image above represents the flow of solar energy into the farm system through the process of photosynthesis, whereby solar radiation is transformed into biochemical energy through the actions of primary producers-plants.    Plants in turn provide a large percentage of their photosynthate (the simple and complex carbon compounds produced through photosynthesis) directly to the soil system as root exudates, and indirectly through the deposition of above and below ground plant biomass on and within the soil.  Some plant biomass is consumed by herbivores, who in turn contribute to the soil carbon pool through deposition of their metabolic waste products, and their bodies at death.  In exchange for the carbon provided by plants to the soil ecosystem, soil biota provide enzymes, nutrients and water to plants, in a profound symbiosis that supports virtually all life on Earth.  [Read More]

Engaging Agriculture

CCI provides carbon farm planning education, training, and mentoring to agricultural support agency partners, as well as producer groups and individual farmers and ranchers.

Our carbon farming framework builds on and supports existing conservation planning technical and funding assistance programs provided by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS), local Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs), and extension services. As trusted members of their communities, these agricultural support agencies are ideally positioned to assist farmers and ranchers transition to more climate beneficial land management regimes. CCI is committed to ensuring agricultural producers have access to the technical assistance and funding support needed to make that transition. [Read More]

News in Our World

To counter the worsening drought, California needs healthy soils

The World and What We Eat

Cabernet With a Side of Carbon

Napa’s wineries are embracing carbon farming—is it greenwash or a climate solution?

June 18, 2020


Completed Carbon Farm Plans

Acres Impacted

Metric Tons of CO2e Sequestered in 20 years when plans are fully implemented

Engaging Agriculture as a Climate Change Solution

Soil biota respire CO2, to the soil environment and to the atmosphere, some of which is in turn taken up directly by adjacent vegetation.  Plants in turn release oxygen, which supports all aerobic life on earth, including that of the soil. Unlike geoengineering approaches, with unknown and potentially negative side effects, enhancing terrestrial carbon sequestration increases food security, enhances ecosystem resilience, and has myriad additional positive benefits for global ecology, including human society.

Our approach begins with the development of a site-specific Carbon Farm Plan, working with a farmer or rancher to assess all the opportunities on the land to increase carbon sequestration in vegetation and soils and reduce management-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A set of online tools (COMET) developed by researchers at Colorado State University and USDA NRCS allows for the quantification of practice-based GHG reduction benefits (both emission reductions and carbon sequestration increases). When we implement carbon farming, we also address many ecosystem impacts related to agriculture, including groundwater and surface water degradation and biodiversity losses. 

 In California, CCI and its partners have been successfully training carbon farming practitioners for nearly a decade. Our carbon farming framework is now widely recognized by local, state, and federal natural resource agencies, and is providing a foundation for value-added direct marketing, sustainable supply-chain creation, and other corporate sustainability initiatives. Most importantly, carbon farming makes sense to farmers and ranchers, and has been an powerful vehicle for increasing climate and carbon cycle literacy in the agricultural community.