California Today: To Fight Climate Change, Heal the Ground

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Author: Mike McPhate | Published: May 30, 2017 

The climate change fight has focused largely on cutting emissions.

But California is now considering another solution: dirt.

Whereas an overabundance of carbon in the air has been disrupting our climate, plants are hungry for the stuff.

The Central Valley’s farmlands essentially operate as a vast lung, breathing in carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and converting it into plant tissues. That results in less of the heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere.

But the healthier the soil, the more carbon is stored in plants.

Enter California’s Healthy Soils Initiative, a statewide program rolling out this summer that is the first of its kind in the country.

“I think there’s a growing recognition that the soil beneath our feet has huge potential to sequester carbon,” said Karen Ross, secretary of the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture.

More than a quarter of California’s landmass is used for agriculture. Over generations, farming practices like monocropping and tillage have reduced the amount of organic matter in the soil, affecting plant growth. Some of that organic matter, which contains carbon, needs to be put back.

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