07/10/2017

Carbon Farming: An Introduction

Author: Tobias Roberts | Published: July 7, 2017 

As we struggle to find ways to deal with the excess amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, much attention has been given to high-tech solutions and cutting fossil fuel use. While these are good and worthy discussions to have, carbon farming offers an opportunity to revolutionize the agricultural sector to improve soil and store excess atmospheric carbon where it belongs: in the ground.

CAN WE STORE CARBON IN THE SOIL?

We hear all of the time about the dangers that come with excess amounts of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. During the last century or so, our civilization has released enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the air through the burning of fossil fuels, the deforestation of our forests, and the degradation of our soils.

Plants breathe carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. That seems like a pretty good compliment to us humans who do just the opposite. As our human quest for domination of the planet has increased, however, we have thrown that balance into turmoil.

Plants can take carbon dioxide floating around in the atmosphere and turn it into plant biomass. As those plants eventually die, their organic material decomposes into fertile top soil which is filled with carbon. The carbon dioxide that was floating around in the atmosphere causing global warming and climate change, is thus placed back into the soil through the process of healthy soil growth.

The main problem with this apparently simple and reasonable solution is that our current, industrial agricultural methods do nothing to promote the storing of carbon in the soil. Instead of promoting the growth of diverse and abundant plant biomass, we clear cut forests (the ecosystem with the densest biomass) for pasture lands. Instead of growing cover crops to add biomass to the soil, we use glyphosate and other herbicides to kill off any and all plant growth that “threatens” our monoculture grain crops.

The excessive tillage of soils year after year actually takes carbon out of the soil and sends it into the atmosphere. Farming, then, instead of taking carbon out of the atmosphere and placing it into the soil is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
What is Carbon Sequestration and Carbon Farming?

Carbon Sequestration is a fancy scientific term that denotes the storage of carbon in a stable solid form. In other words, the opposite of carbon dioxide gas that is floating around our atmosphere in excessive quantities. Carbon sequestration occurs when plants have chemical reactions that turn the carbon dioxide gas into inorganic compounds such as calcium and magnesium.

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