Measuring soil organic carbon: which technique and where to from here? Academic Article uri icon


  • This review compares and contrasts analytical techniques for the measurement of total soil organic carbon (TOC). Soil TOC is seen to be a highly important health and quality indicator for soils, as well as having the potential to sequester atmospheric carbon. Definition of the form of organic carbon measured by a given method is vital to the selection of appropriate methodology, as well as the understanding of what exactly is being measured. Historically, studies of TOC have ranged from basic measures, such as colour and gravimetric analyses, to dry and wet oxidation techniques. In more recent times, various spectroscopic techniques and the application of remote or mobile approaches have gained prominence. The different techniques, even the oldest ones, may have their place in current research depending on research needs, the available time, budget and access to wider resources. This review provides an overview of the various methods, highlights advantages, limitations and research opportunities and provides an indication of what the method actually measures so that meaningful comparisons can be made.

publication date

  • 2015