Dane County Launches New Technology to Monitor Trapping Soil Carbon, Track Progress on Climate Change Work

September 05, 2023
Ariana Vruwink, 608-267-8823
County Executive, Land & Water Resources

Technology Will Help Measure Progress on Dane County’s Effort to Become
Carbon Neutral by 2030

The Land & Water Resources Department (LWRD) is using new equipment to measure Dane County government’s ongoing efforts to trap carbon in the soil, County Executive Joe Parisi announced today. Soil is a significant carbon reservoir, storing more carbon than all plants, animals, and the atmosphere combined—making it crucial for addressing the climate crisis.

County staff are conducting in-field monitoring to track changes in soil carbon levels in response to a variety of soil conservation practices the County is implementing to reduce climate change emissions. The technology will help measure progress on carbon trapping efforts, as Dane County strives to achieve the goal of having County facilities, fleet, and land operations be carbon neutral by 2030.

“We are excited to have staff begin using this new equipment on land throughout the Dane County community,” said County Executive Parisi. “This technology will help us measure the amount of carbon we are trapping deep in the ground to reduce emissions and meet our goal of becoming carbon neutral within the next seven years.”

Having healthy soil with high carbon content beneath our feet provides more than those vibrant red tomatoes coming out of the garden this time of year. Land conservation practices like prairie restoration and grassland agriculture not only promote soil health, but also produce plants more resilient to climate-related crop failure. Such practices extend the duration of vegetative cover, giving plants more time to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—a primary greenhouse gas contributing to climate change—and send that carbon underground, helping temper a warming climate.

Soil samples are being collected to a depth of one meter using a hydraulic coring machine mounted to the bed of a utility train vehicle. By dividing the cores into sections and having samples analyzed by the University of Wisconsin – Soil & Forage Analysis Lab in Madison, a soil carbon baseline will be established. Baseline values will serve as a starting point to calculate how below ground carbon concentrations are changing following implementation of conservation practices.

Over the next few months, LWRD will collect soil samples for the carbon quantification project from Dane County Parks properties and private lands that have recently undergone a prairie/grassland restoration, including the 58-acre solar array at Dane County Regional Airport and lands enrolled in the County’s Continuous Cover Program. Working in collaboration with the Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change, the carbon accounting team will use the results to inform how land use changes like these are contributing to meeting emission reduction goals in the 2020 Dane County Climate Action Plan.

County Executive Parisi’s 2023 budget included $4.5 million for the development and installation of carbon capture technologies, as well as a new position in the Department of Waste and Renewables to work on accelerating Dane County’s path toward carbon neutrality. He included funds in the 2023 budget to register the carbon reduction and sequestration work Dane County does on a national registry. Parisi also allocated funding for the Office of Energy and Climate Change to ramp up Dane County’s focus on becoming carbon neutral and track emissions and energy data.


Click here to view/download photos of staff using the technology in the field.

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