Farmland Can Sequester Carbon From the Atmosphere

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Author: Jan Sluizer | Published: August 21, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO —
California rancher John Wick says the Marin Carbon Project could help save the world from climate change.

“How would you possibly know, looking out at this beautiful day in front of us, that the Earth is crashing?” he asks, rhetorically. “But when scientists measure it and see the effect of it, and watch the ocean die-off and everything happening, this is scary as hell. And, then, we have evidence that there might be something that could stop that. And, then, we had measurement of something that holds promise to actually reverse it.”

That “something” is carbon farming, using processed compost to cool the Earth. It’s a theory developed by rangeland ecologist Jeff Creque, who also promotes beneficial land management practices to increase the health of agricultural systems.

“Agriculture is the art of moving carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to the vegetation to the soil and, then, back again,” he says, explaining, “If we can increase the rate of carbon capture and decrease the rate of carbon loss, we can actually begin to bend that Keeling curve of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the other direction, which is what we need to achieve.”

Wick met the ecologist when he turned to him for help restoring his ranchland, which had been overgrazed by cattle, and overrun with invasive weeds and brush. After implementing a strategic grazing disruption plan Creque designed, deep-rooted native flora gradually returned to the property.

Wick was now a firm believer in Creque’s theories, and to prove them, they founded the Marin Carbon Project. In December, 2008, they covered a carbon-depleted test plot on Wick’s land with one and a quarter centimeters of processed compost, next to another grazed test plot without compost. They wanted to see if the compost-treated land would pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and sequester durable carbon during photosynthesis.

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