How Dirt Could Help Save the Planet

The American dust bowl of the 1930s demonstrated the ruinous consequences of soil degradation. Decades of farming practices had stripped the Great Plains of their fertile heritage, making them vulnerable to severe drought. Ravaging winds lifted plumes of soil from the land and left in their wake air choked with dust and a barren landscape. Thousands died of starvation or lung disease; others migrated west in search of food, jobs and clean air.

Today, we again face the potential for extreme soil erosion, but this time the threat is intensified by climate change. Together, they create an unprecedented dual threat to the food supply and the health of the planet—and farmers can be key partners in averting the catastrophic consequences. Both erosion and climate change can be mitigated by incorporating more carbon into soil. Photosynthetic carbon fixation removes carbon dioxide from the air, anchoring it in plant material that can be sequestered in soil.