Performance-Based Payments for Soil Carbon Sequestration Can Enable a Low-Carbon BioeconomyPerformance-Based Payments for Soil Carbon Sequestration Can Enable a Low-Carbon Bioeconomy

Publication Type

Journal Article

Date Published



Incentivizing bioenergy crop production in locations with marginal soils, where low-input perennial crops can provide net carbon sequestration and economic benefits, will be crucial to building a successful bioeconomy. We developed an integrated assessment framework to compare switchgrass cultivation with corn-soybean rotations on the basis of production costs, revenues, and soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration at a 100 m spatial resolution. We calculated profits (or losses) when marginal lands are converted from a corn-soy rotation to switchgrass across a range of farm gate biomass prices and payments for SOC sequestration in the State of Illinois, United States. The annual net SOC sequestration and switchgrass yields are estimated to range from 0.1 to 0.4 Mg ha–1 and 7.3 to 15.5 Mg dry matter ha–1, respectively, across the state. Without payments for SOC sequestration, only a small fraction of marginal corn-soybean land would achieve a 20% profit margin if converted to switchgrass, but $40–80 Mg–1 CO2e compensation could increase the economically viable area by 140–414%. With the compensation, switchgrass cultivation for 10 years on 1.6 million ha of marginal land in Illinois will produce biomass worth $1.6–2.9 billion (0.95–1.8 million Mg dry biomass) and mitigate 5–22 million Mg CO2e.


Environmental Science & Technology

Year of Publication




Short Title

Environ. Sci. Technol.