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RCA From My Eyes-Blount County

Conservation Showcase

And I Thought RCA Was A Stereo...Discovering RCA-From My Eyes

Merry Buford, District Conservationist | Blount County, AL


(l-r) Eddie Davis, Joe Gardinski, Chris Ford, and Milton Tuck complete the RCA in Blount County.

When I first heard of RCA, the first thing that came to mind was a spotted dog with a stereo. The second was to exclaim - not another acronym!

MLRA Soil Survey Leader Chris Ford explained to me that RCA, or Rapid Carbon Assessment, is an inventory of the amount of carbon in the soil.

The day I learned about RCA is also the day I learned there was a random test plot in Blount County. The National Soil Survey Center’s Lab in Nebraska has picked 35,000 random test plots all over the nation, and we happened to be one of them! So, with information from Chris, I was off to do some research and get permission from the landowner for us to access his property. Mr. G.C. Thomas very nicely and cooperatively gave us permission to dig five test pits in his pasture.

The morning for testing arrived, and of course, it would be the hottest day of the year thus far. Luckily we had a nice breeze to help make the soil sampling, well, a breeze. Chris Ford, Cartographer Joe Gardinski, Soil Scientist Eddie, and Resource Soil Scientist Milton Tuck all came to Blount County to conduct the RCA.

Once GPS located our exact coordinates, the guys got to work digging five pits 15” by 15” by up to 24” deep. From these they got soil samples and descriptions for every horizon layer. The samples they collected will eventually go to Nebraska to the National Soil Survey Center’s laboratory to determine how much carbon is in the soil for this land use type in this area of the country. Once the nationwide inventory is made, USDA will have a better understanding of how land use and location affect carbon sequestration (how much carbon is stored in the soil).

Enhancing carbon sequestration is important because it can contribute to reducing the atmosphere buildup of green house gasses. It is my understanding that this may bring new conservation practices that will help NRCS reach our goals of conservation and reducing climate change. The information from this assessment could also be used to establish policies for determining credits or a value for carbon sequestration achieved in the agriculture sector.

All this sampling experience and new found knowledge about RCA and how it may help us keep productive soil and healthy land for years to come, made a wonderful day.

For more information on Carbon Sequestration visit the Department of Energy’s website: