Can Soil Inoculation Accelerate Carbon Sequestration in Forests?

When foresters first tried to plant non-native Pinus radiata in the southern hemisphere, the trees would not grow until someone thought to bring a handful of soil from the native environment. “They didn’t know it then, but they were reintroducing the spores of fungi that these trees need in order to establish,” Colin Averill, ecologist at The Crowther Lab, explains. “When we plant trees, we rarely ‘plant’ the soil microbiome. But if we do, we can really accelerate the process of restoration.”

That process of restoration has become one of humanity’s most urgent missions. In order to slow global warming, we know that we need to decarbonize our economy and start removing carbon from the atmosphere – and we’ve largely been looking at doing so through dreams of negative emissions technologies and schemes of tree-planting.

But only very recently has more attention been turned toward another major potential tool for carbon capture: soil. An astonishing 80 percent of the carbon stored in terrestrial ecosystems is stored underground. According to the 4 per 1000 Initiative, a modest and achievable increase in soil carbon of 0.4 percent could be enough to stop the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

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Syntropic Agriculture: Cacao, Costa Rica, Case Study

After organizing and attending our first syntropic farming workshop in 2019, our team at Porvenir Design knew that we were looking for just the right client to implement a larger scale system to learn more about these ideas. Finca Luna Nueva presented that opportunity as they were seeking to expand their existing cacao orchards and we had recently taken over full administration of their farm.

As part of this work we documented the transformation of the space during its first year and a half, from design and planning to implementation and feedback. This blog seeks to explain in detail exactly why and how we incorporated syntropic farming principles into the installation of a one hectare cacao orchard. It is also our chance to explore feedback, discuss what we would do differently in the future and hear from the larger syntropic farming community.

Special thanks to the Finca Luna Nueva farm crew: Carlos A., Jose, Eladio, David, Christopher, Frander, Nelson, Carlos R., and Walter for their diligence and patience.

Special thanks to Elena Valverde and Iva Alvarado for the photos and editing, Travis Wals for the video creation, and Alejandro Arturo for the graphics.

 

What is Syntropic Farming

Syntropic Farming is a process and principle based form of agriculture developed and propagated primarily in Brazil. Syntropic farming is a field within the larger domains of agroecology and agroforestry. Syntropic systems complement the food forest ideas within permaculture design by providing more specific design details, metrics, and arrangements that focus on precisely imitating the spatial and temporal relationships of the region’s native forest ecology. It has shown the ability to be scaled beyond many similar fields of agroecology. Syntropic agriculture provides a set of principles and tools for shifting from organic monocultures and input based agriculture towards a holistic focus on ecology. In the end it is a system that seeks to imitate the forest and results in a forest ecosystem.

This blog won’t attempt to define syntropic farming beyond this. The following links are key places to explore the topic.

Life in Syntropy

Agenda Gotsch

What is Syntropic Farming?

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Finca Luna Nueva and a New Ecology of Agriculture

Finca Luna Nueva (FLN) is a farm and eco-lodge located in the Costa Rican lowland Caribbean slopes, near the town of La Fortuna and the famed Arenal volcano. It is situated down river of the Bosque Eterno de Los Niños. FLN was one of the first certified organic and Demeter certified biodynamic farms in Central America, focused primarily on growing ginger and turmeric for export to the United States of America. The farm was successful in this endeavor until the soil fungal pathogen Fusarium sp became such an issue that total crop loss approached 80%. In the following years the farm resources shifted toward tourism activities as the lodge pivoted to remain financially viable and create diverse revenue streams. The Porvenir Design team was brought on board in 2018 to begin re-vitalizing the farm with a new perspective in agriculture.

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Why Adopt Syntropic Farming in this Context?

As FLN watched their turmeric crops fail following conventional organic/biodynamic approaches, they realized a new approach was going to be required on the farm. Their agricultural exploration shifted towards a focus on ecology, in particular the microbial health of the farm as a whole. Our team brought the additional perspective of creating systems which imitate forest ecology. For us, syntropic farming nests within permaculture design as a more organized form of agroforestry, integrating existing concepts of alley cropping, intercropping, keyline design and layout, and tree crop based agriculture.

FLN has a long history of pushing the edge of agricultural norms, being early adopters of many now-commonplace techniques and crops. They have the resources to trial new systems, so this was our chance to apply our new knowledge of syntropic agriculture in an opportune setting.

The Context of the Site

  • Elevation: 350 m above sea level in the Tileran Cordillera of the Caribbean slope.

  • Climate: Wet tropics, 4000 mm of rain/year average, driest season from January through May.

  • Watershed: San Carlos river watershed

  • Slope: Gentle slope toward the SE, drop of 12 meters from high to low points.

  • Size of Orchard: 1.1 hectares

  • Existing Vegetation: Pioneer species, early secondary forest growth, five to eight years of rest from any previous agriculture depending on the location in the site.

  • Existing trees, approximately 100, after thinning of overstory for timber crops: 1/3 timber, 2/3 fruit trees primarily breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) and mamonchino (Nephelium lappaceum).

  • Neighbors: The orchard is within the original FLN farm, within a short walk to the lodge and other hotel infrastructure; the syntropic plot also borders 12 hectares of protected forest.

  • History: First cleared in 1997 for ginger planting. Management and practices included certified organic and biodynamic preparations/amendments, crop rotation, fallow period, tillage with oxen, cover crops, and earthworks with vetiver grass for erosion control.

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Goals and Decision Making in the Syntropic Cacao Orchard

The stakeholders at FLN are highly involved as advocates within the regenerative agriculture movement, hence the system needed to demonstrate the principles of regenerative agriculture. Carbon sequestration in particular was an important goal in the design of the system.

In addition, we recognized the privilege and resources available at this particular project and wanted to leverage them to create an experimental system, as far from monoculture as possible. We anticipated it would be a complex system to manage, and we knew the farm crew, with decades of experience, would be able to do just this. We understood that this would be a very labor intensive system.

The more specific goals of the farm were to grow food for the lodge’s kitchen, while developing a few export grade cash crops (turmeric, cacao, ojoche) over all time scales. The system was designed to have yields within six months through 50 years. Much of the specific species selected to fill in the ecological niches were selected based on seed which we could source easily at quantity in our bioregion.

The COVID-19 pandemic struck after the initial set up of this system and forced our team to minimize labor intensive activities. Since the beginning of the pandemic we adjusted our goals to focus on maintenance of the most valuable crops, like cacao, while minimizing maintenance of short rotation crops.

Orchard Design

Row Design and Layout

As can be seen in the below graphic, the system was designed primarily to accommodate the cacao crops. A rows, featuring cacao, are spaced at 5 meters distance, parallel and offset from an initial contour line near the top of the slope. In between these rows are B rows, and in between all A-B lines are C rows. The pattern looks as follows A-C-B-C-A-C-B-C-A-C.

In total there are 17 A rows, 17 B rows, and 34 C rows. The longest row is 129 meters, the shortest is 73 meters, and the average is approximately 110 meters long.

Syntropic Farming Costa Rica

A row detail

  • Cacao (Theobroma cacao) planted every 4 meters

  • Poro (Erythrina sp.) posts planted every 4 meters between cacao

  • Pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) was planted between each cacao and poro post

  • In a few select rows Sacha Inchi (Plukenetia volubilis) was established on these poro posts

  • Jack Bean (Canavalia sp.) was seeded throughout the rows, especially around the cacao planting location

B row detail

  • Tithonia diversifolia was planted every meter

  • Musa sp were planted every 3 meters

  • Pejibaye (Bactris gasipaes) and Ojoche (Brosimum alicastrum) were planted every 18 meters, with the exceptions of locations with existing overstory trees .

C row detail:

  • Turmeric (Curcurma longa) was planted in mounds every 2 meters, 150 grams of turmeric per mound.

  • In a few select rows only pineapple were planted.

  • Between turmeric, depending on light conditions and seed material, the following crops were planted:

    • Papaya (Carica papaya)

    • Pigeon Pea

    • Rosa de Jamaica (Hibiscus sabdariffa)

    • Jack Bean

    • Sun hemp (Crotalaria sp.)

    • Squash (Cucurbita spp.)

    • Yuca (Manihot esculenta)

    • Chili Dulce (Capsicum annum)

    • Moringa (Moringa oleifera)

    • Beans (Phaseolus sp.)

    • Corn (Zea mays)

Strata and Life Cycle

The below chart demonstrates how and where each plant fits within their expected time and space niches, as the system evolves toward maturity. In syntropic systems, plants are used to prepare the conditions for the next life cycle of plants. Hence Placenta species will be pruned or harvested out of the system to make room for the Secondary group of plants to grow to maturity.

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Plant and Other Materials

The following is an approximate list of the number of species put into the ground over the first year of this orchard:

  • 500 cacao trees of the following varieties: Buffalo 1, UF 613, UF 653, ICS 95, R6

  • 40 pejibaye palms

  • 40 ojoche trees

  • 450 kg of turmeric

  • 2000 Tithonia cuttings

  • 600 Musa sp seedlings

  • 3000 gandul seedlings

  • 20 kg of canavalia

  • 2500 pineapple (Ananas comosus) starts

  • All other noted species were planted at relatively small numbers by comparison.

Compost was applied to the base of each fruit tree and to the turmeric mounds. In total 2500 kgs of compost were applied

Mountain Microorganisms (MM) and other foliar sprays such as fish emulsion (Pescagro) have been applied to the fruit trees and turmeric periodically.

Two strands of woven electric wire were used to fence the entire site to prevent animal predation of crops, particularly that of wild pigs.

Implementation and Management Process

Our first step began with clearing the land. This process took approximately two months, and we laid out the orchard as it was cleared. We removed approximately 5000 cubic inches of milled timber with an oxen team in this process.

The first A row was selected from an existing contour line near the top of the slope. All lines were pulled parallel from this line. This allowed us to maintain equidistant spacing between lines but still approximate the natural topography of the slope.

A small part of the orchard was laid out and planted during our Permaculture Design Course, the rest of the work was accomplished by the FLN farm crew, six full time workers.

Plantings were done first to delineate the A and B Rows with Tithonia, Musa, and Poro in particular. The approximate calendar of installation looked as followed:

  • October-November 2019: Clearing and lay out of lines

  • November -December 2019: Primary planting to delineate lines

  • December- February 2020: Planting of long term overstory trees/palms, cover crops, and most shorter rotation crops

  • March – April 2020: Harvest of squash, beans, corn, and cover crop seeds

  • May 2020: Heavy pruning, planting of turmeric crop

  • June 2020: Planting of cacao trees

  • August 2020: Heavy pruning

  • December 2020: Cacao maintenance

  • February 2021: Heavy pruning and cacao formation pruning

This first heavy pruning occurred in May 2020 prior to the planting of the turmeric crop. This primarily involved pruning or removing Tithonia, Pigeon Pea, and Jack Bean to create more light. A second pruning occurred in August to open up additional light for the turmeric and cacao trees. A third heavy pruning occurred in February 2021. Ideally all planting would have occurred at the same time but was limited due to sourcing and logistical challenges.

Foliar sprays are applied every three months to at least the cacao crop. Specific pest control sprays are applied as the farm crew sees fit. It is important to understand that in this context, the farm crew has years of experience working within organic systems and has an understanding of remedies for in field issues such as insect pressure, bacterial/fungal influence, and more.

Harvest

While the pandemic significantly reduced both the lodge’s demand for food and the farm crew’s hours, we have experienced significant harvests of existing breadfruit and mamon chino trees, bananas, and plantains. We harvested and continue harvesting smaller quantities of chili, pina, corn, beans, and yucca. The turmeric harvest will occur in April 2021.

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Feedback and Conclusion

Our team continues to take in a number of lessons from this installation and management. The following are from our notes on what we learned and would have done differently.

  • Parallel Offset versus Triangulation: When laying out the initial cacao tree planting holes, we expected to triangulate the trees from each other while maintaining the equidistant planting lines. After much head scratching, we realized this is impossible on a terrain whose topography varies even slightly. We could only do one or the other. As usual, it was a challenge to take something from theory and put it into practice on a larger scale.

  • Pest Control: Our workers stated very clearly that tuber, grains, and pulses would be easy food for nearby wildlife. We wanted to see if a more diverse system, with more regular human presence would deter this, but quickly found out that wild pigs don’t care about those ideas. We adjusted rapidly and placed an electric fence around the entire hectare. An alternative decision would have been to simply not grow these types of short rotation crops. There is a good argument to be made that the cost of the fence and its maintenance is not worth the benefit of mixing our long term perennials, which don’t need protection, with these short rotation crops.

  • Access: In hindsight we would have adjusted the line layout slightly. Around the halfway point of the slope we would have liked to add a wider access path and used this to find a new contour line and run the lower lines parallel and offset to this. We considered this at the start but in order to simplify the installation process, decided against it.

  • Seeding Logistics: We used a mix of direct seeding, bare rooting plants from in ground planters and establishing plants in bags prior to planting. There are distinct pros and cons to each of these. In general we feel that the more one can direct seed the better, but this requires a higher level of skill from the farm crew. We are continually working with our farm crew to determine what they believe are the most efficient methods.

  • Simplification: During our workshop in 2019, we were astounded by the complexity and number of plant species and interactions that were recommended by our instructors. We sought to replicate this, despite some hesitation, by incorporating 23 different species into this system. Many of these crops did not thrive because it was simply too challenging, in our context, to manage this complexity. Some of this was based on having too few plants, some based on COVID labor shortages, some on poor crop selection, and so forth. In a more recent 3000 sq meter vanilla orchard we simplified our syntropic system to around 10 species.

  • Limitations of Organic Certification: It has become clear to us in this process, and with another installation at a different site, that conventional organic certification does not match well with highly diverse systems such as this. We felt severely limited in the soil amendments we could use and the complications of documenting all the sourcing becomes a part time job for someone. Organic certification is clearly designed for input-based agriculture and not process-based agriculture.

  • Pruning, Light and Biomass Management: We found ourselves needing to heavily prune certain biomass species to open up more sunlight for the turmeric and cacao. Although many crops can adjust to shade, they really need lots of sun to start growing well. This management, the details of pruning, has been the most challenging piece to communicate to our farm crew, as we learn with them. In addition figuring out exactly where to place biomass on the ground has been a full conversation, as the biomass both helps with weed suppression but also makes clearing around young trees more challenging. These are the details which we will be playing with for years to come.

In summary, we are excited to keep learning about syntropic systems in the future and hope that this project can be a source of inspiration and learning for anyone else interesting in this realm. Come and visit the farm!

Young Urban Farmer Plots Growth of Regenerative Agriculture Endeavor

Chander Payne digs dirt.

The budding farmer’s fondness for linking humans to the promise of the oft-disregarded ground beneath their feet spurred him to launch a social — and earthy — enterprise as a high schooler in metropolitan Washington, D.C.

Chander Payne headshot

Chander Payne

His hands-on effort to connect farming with homeless shelters and schools in underserved communities has thus far delivered 3,600-plus pounds of fresh vegetables to residents of local food deserts.

Payne, now in college, named his city-centric endeavor Urban Beet. The ambitious effort to connect students with gardening, families with real food and everyone with the soil was awarded a Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes in 2020, the year he graduated from Bethesda-Chevy Chase, a top-ranked high school in Montgomery County, Maryland. The Colorado-based nonprofit affiliated with the prize annually recognizes 25 young, inspiring and public-spirited leaders across the United States and Canada who have made a significant difference to people, their communities and the environment.

Payne was introduced to the concept of regenerative agriculture at a summer job where he learned how pesticides and tilling had severely disrupted the natural carbon-capturing ability of plants and soil microorganisms. Reversing those modern trends can mitigate climate change in at least a couple of ways. Healthy replenished soil can store carbon underground, offsetting some of the emissions from fossil fuel power plants and vehicles. Urban gardens can also reduce what’s known as the heat island effect when they replace asphalt and other heat-absorbing hard surfaces.

These lessons led him to see his surroundings as a garden that needs tending. Beyond food, he wants his farms to offer joy, empowerment and healing to children.

“My work has led me to see the world as a regenerative farmer, to be perceptive and empathetic,” said Payne, now a freshman at Williams College in Massachusetts, leaning toward a major in environmental studies. “I envision a world where I walk into underserved neighborhoods and see colorful beets and tomatoes growing — a world where every kid has a close relationship with living soil and fresh food.”

Chemistry teacher Christopher Knocke was part of the team that nominated Payne for a Barron Prize. Author T.A. Barron established the prize two decades ago to honor his mother, Gloria, who labored for years to create a nature museum at the Colorado School for the Blind.

Payne’s idea for Urban Beet sprouted as a single raised bed filled with soil, compost and seeds in his high school’s courtyard. It’s still thriving and has expanded to 200 square feet, with an additional solar-powered vertical farm.

Now, the 18-year-old is executive director of what’s evolved into an LLC fueled by donations. His team of young go-getters has constructed farms at three high schools in suburban Maryland and five at homeless shelters and related facilities in the nation’s capital and Delaware. Urban Beet plans to create 10 additional farms in Virginia and elsewhere around the region later this year.

“I am eager to continue investigating the relationship between the well-being of soil microbiomes, families and farming communities,” he said.

In an interview with the Energy News Network, Payne explained how and why food insecurity, urban heat islands and soil degradation in his own backyard inspired his passion for global soil health and the climate fight. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What prompted your interest in growing vegetables?

A: It all started when I noticed food inequality at my high school when I was a sophomore. My classmates who ate in the cafeteria, typically those without extra money to eat off campus, had french fries as their only vegetable. That motivated me to ask to see the school kitchen. When I looked into the vegetable refrigerator, it was empty. I took a photo to remember.

Three labeled shelves for fruits, vegetables and dairy; the veggie shelf is empty.

Credit: Chander Payne / Courtesy

Q: The photo evidently had an impact on you. What did you do next?

A: I wanted to address the disparity in access to nutritious food, so I created a partnership between a local rooftop garden and my school’s food pantry in 10th grade. Previously, the pantry provided families with canned food. Soon, needy families had access to 20 pounds of fresh produce weekly. Besides lettuce and tomatoes, the harvests include beets, kale, corn, chard, okra and spinach.

Q: Then, you decided to get your hands dirty. How did that work out?

A: I spent the summer of 2017 building vegetable gardens around the District of Columbia for Love & Carrots, a local company. That’s where I learned the practice of regenerative agriculture, farming techniques that build healthy soil by sequestering carbon in the ground.

Q: And that, literally, laid the groundwork for what is now Urban Beet?

A: Yes. As the school year began, my aspiration was to make urban farming accessible. I wanted to help marginalized young people grow food regeneratively while sharing the soothing mental escape that gardening provides.

Q: How did you find like-minded classmates to work in that courtyard garden at your high school?

A: It was challenging because soil is not the most thrilling topic to all 16-year-olds. But I eventually assembled a dedicated team of nine. We called ourselves the Avengers of Urban Farming.

One of our first partnerships was with the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project, a nonprofit. I invited them to receive produce by joining us on summer field trips to our regenerative farm. When we host community workdays at our farms, children enjoy their harvest as farm-fresh meals made by True Food Kitchen.

Q: You refer to soil as the silent hero beneath our feet. Why?

A: I have found the magic of soil. It connects everything, capturing carbon from the air and nourishing families. My love for soil is why my initial intention to fight food deserts through produce deliveries has transformed into a project connecting people with their environment and each other.

Q: You mentioned that your mentor from Paraguay at Love & Carrots, Manuel Rojas, showed you how to read plants as closely as scholars read texts. What does that mean?

A: I learned to relate the tiniest detail to the whole. For instance, a single wilted leaf on a sunflower can reveal a garden-wide need for water. Manuel’s lessons opened my heart and eyes as he inspired me to act with the compassionate vigilance of a regenerative farmer in other areas of my life.

Urban Beet’s Free Little Farms offered relief to struggling families during the coronavirus pandemic by offering portable container gardens. Credit: Chander Payne / Courtesy

Q: What are Free Little Farms, another offshoot of Urban Beet? 

A: These windowsill planters, complete with soil, seeds and a note of support, are created for families and people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. We partnered with homeless shelters and food pantries to distribute these portable container gardens and have donated 205 so far throughout the region.

Q: Does gardening or farming run in your family?

A: My “Namma,” or grandma, was my family’s original urban farmer. She grew up on a farm in Southern India where she grew food in harmony with the Earth. When she immigrated to America, she started growing a thriving garden.

Q: Lastly, you refer to yourself as a natural introvert. Did that make it hard for you to act on this project?

A: Nourishing young people with education and complete meals has taught me the beauty of courageous openness when communicating with others.

Reposted with permission from

The Rodale Institute’s Soil-Carbon Solution and the Future of Regenerative Agriculture

According to a recent white paper from the Rodale Institute, global implementation of regenerative practices could sequester more than 100 percent of human-related carbon emissions.

One decade ago the United Nations Environment Programme predicted that in a worst case scenario, yearly global greenhouse emissions could reach 56 gigatons in 2020. And Rodale Institute’s paper notes that in 2018 total emissions approached this projection, reaching 55.3 gigatons. Global agricultural production accounts for roughly ten percent of these yearly emissions.

Despite this, Rodale Institute remains confident the world is already equipped with the tools it needs to achieve massive drawdown. The action paper assures that the technology necessary for a massive ecological rehabilitation is already available.

The paper defines regenerative agriculture as a set of farming practices that return nutrients to the earth and rehabilitate entire ecosystems, rather than depleting them. These practices include farming organically without synthetics and chemical sprays, diversifying crop rotations, cover cropping, and integrating livestock with rotational grazing.

And the Institute stresses the importance of incorporating these techniques into conventional farming in the hope that every farming model may make use of its most valuable tool: healthy soil.

The paper indicates that soil can contain three to four times as much carbon as the atmosphere or terrestrial vegetation. This implies that even small changes to the quantity of carbon stored in the soil can vastly impact levels of atmospheric carbon.

“There are very few cost-effective tools that work as well as the soil, that can be implemented across such a broad spectrum of topographies and cultures,” Jeff Moyer tells Food Tank. “We’d be amiss to not use this tool.”

Moyer says that cover crops, when grown to maturity, are one of the easiest and most cost-effective tools farmers can use to sequester carbon anywhere in the world. But this isn’t always a priority. In the United States, for example, activists say that crop insurance doesn’t incentivize farmers to take advantage of the benefits of cover crops. “We have very conflicting incentives, and we need to change that,” Moyer says.

Producers and consumers also have a key role to play. “If we don’t incentivize [regenerative agriculture] at the policy level, then we have to incentivize it from within the supply chain,” Moyer says.

Elizabeth Whitlow, Executive Director of the Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA), says incentivizing regenerative farming and generating trust with shoppers may go hand-in-hand. In 2017, ROA created a certification, Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC), to incentivize regenerative practices from within the supply chain.

“We wanted to create a high-bar standard to demonstrate and clarify what regenerative can and should be: a holistic type of agriculture that regenerates resources and considers all players in the farm system, from the soil microbiome to the animals to the workers,” Whitlow tells Food Tank.

According to Whitlow, ROC surpasses what is required by most other certifications. To pass, farms must apply with a baseline of organic certification and meet strict requirements under each of ROC’s three pillars: soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness. Since its founding, the program has certified 15 brands through its pilot program, including Dr. Bronner’s and Patagonia Provisions.

Whitlow says brands will have a significant role to play in driving interest and investment in regenerative organic farming. While she believes consumers are ready to start making purchases in line with their values, producers may need a push from their supply chains.

“Growers operate on razor-thin margins,” Whitlow tells Food Tank. “To adopt regenerative organic practices, which carry more risk than chemical-intensive methods, growers need buyers that will pay a premium and commit long-term through the trials and tribulations of adopting new, innovative methods.”

The Seeds of Vandana Shiva

The filmmakers of The Seeds of Vandana Shiva are allowing for a FREE special stream through April 8th, 2021. CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT getting the film out into the world to build awareness around industrial agriculture vs regenerative farming and food.

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Vandana Shiva, Ph.D., is a physicist and activist who works tirelessly to defend the environment and protect biodiversity from multinational corporations. Her life’s work has culminated in the creation of seed banks that may one day save future generations’ food sovereignty, but how she got there is a fascinating story, chronicled in the documentary “The Seeds of Vandana Shiva.”

Shiva, “a brilliant scientist” who became “Monsanto’s worst nightmare and a rock star of the international organic food movement,”1 grew up in a Himalayan forest, where her father, a forest conservator, carried out inspections. She would travel up to 45 miles a day with her father as a young girl, and as they traversed the forest he taught her everything about the trees, plants and herbs therein.

“We had a classroom out in the forest,” Shiva said, but her formal studies were done in a convent which, at that time, didn’t regard science as a subject fit for girls. Shiva wanted to study physics, though, and she was especially intrigued by Einstein and his connections of intuition with science. “Everyone has their favorite person that they want to be,” she said. “Einstein was the shaper of the dream of my life.”

A Search for Knowledge as a Whole

Shiva got a scholarship to attend Chandigarh University in Punjab, India, and from there she went on to the Bhabha National Atomic Research Center in Mumbai, India, for training in atomic energy. Later, her sister, a medical doctor, asked her about the health and environmental effects of nuclear technology and radiation.

As Shiva grasped the devastation nuclear energy had caused, she said, “I realized that a science that only teaches you how to modify nature without the understanding of what that modification does to the larger world is not a complete science.”

She gave up her idea of being a nuclear physicist and instead went looking for knowledge as a whole. She studied on her own, finding quantum theory, and while pursuing a Ph.D. in Canada, went to visit some of her favorite spots, including an oak forest she held close to her heart.

When she arrived, the forest had been cut down to make room for apple orchards, changing the entire microclimate in the area. The loss of something that she felt was a part of her impacted her deeply and set the stage for her environmental activism.

The Tree Hugging Movement Is Born

Shiva states that her involvement in the contemporary ecology movement began with the Chipko movement in 1973.2 The timber mafia were cutting down trees throughout the Indian Himalayas, taking away this precious resource from the rural villagers who depended on the forest for subsistence.

The government denied villagers access to the land and the lumber, while the logging companies cleared out forests, leading to problems with erosion, depleted water resources and flooding.

The villagers, primarily women, fought back in the best way they could, by physically embracing the trees to stop the loggers. Chipko is a Hindi word that means “to hug” or “to cling to,”3 and the movement spread, creating what became widely known as the tree hugging movement.

The women of Chipko taught Shiva how much women who hadn’t been to school knew about the interconnectedness of nature, but it took a major flood to make the government realize that what the women were saying was right. The revenue that came in from the forest logging was little compared to what they had to pay for flood relief.

In 1981, the government listened to the women and ordered a ban on logging in the high-altitude Himalayas, while tree hugging became a worldwide practice of ecological activism.

The New Buzzword in Fashion

The hottest new buzzword in fashion was borrowed from a group of people more likely to be spotted at a grain silo than at fashion week: farmers.

“Regenerative agriculture” is a term that was coined in the 1980s and that started gaining real momentum in 2017. It is used to describe a series of farming practices that prioritise soil health, biodiversity and holistic ecosystem restoration. Because proponents claim it can pull carbon out of the air and store it in the soil, making it a potential climate solution, it’s started to garner widespread attention even among people who don’t take an active interest in farming.

Partly for that reason, “regenerative” has become a descriptor that’s moved beyond agriculture and started cropping up more and more often in the world of fashion. Luxury heavy-hitters such as Prada, Gucci and Stella McCartney, independent designers Marine Serre and Mara Hoffman, and outdoor outfitters Timberland and Patagonia have all started using variations on the term in their PR and marketing.

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Vandana Shiva: Bill Gates Empires ‘Must Be Dismantled’

In an interview with Dr. Joseph Mercola, Vandana Shiva says, “… if In the next decade, if we don’t protect what has to be protected … and take away the sainthood from this criminal, they will leave nothing much to be saved.”

In this interview, Vandana Shiva, Ph.D., discusses the importance and benefits of regenerative agriculture and a future Regeneration International project that we’ll be collaborating on.

We’re currently facing enormously powerful technocrats who are hell-bent on ushering in the Great Reset, which will complete the ongoing transfer of wealth and resource ownership from the poor and middle classes to the ultra-rich. Perhaps the most well-known of the individuals pushing for this is Bill Gates who, like John Rockefeller a century before him, rehabilitated his sorely tarnished image by turning to philanthropy.

However, Gates’ brand of philanthropy, so far, has helped few and harmed many. While his PR machine has managed to turn public opinion about him such that many now view him as a global savior who donates his wealth for the good of the planet, nothing could be further from the truth.

Gates’ stranglehold on global health

The magnitude of Gates’ role over global health recently dawned on me. I believe the COVID-19 catastrophe would not have been possible had it not been for the World Health Organization (WHO), which Gates appears to exert shadow-control over. Remember, it was primarily the WHO that facilitated this global shutdown and adoption of freedom-robbing, economy-destroying measures by virtually every government on the planet.

When then-President Trump halted U.S. funding of the WHO in 2020, Gates became the biggest funder of the WHO. As explained in “WHO Insider Blows Whistle on Gates and GAVI,” the WHO has turned global health security into a dictatorship, where the director general has assumed sole power to make decisions that member states must abide by, but according to a long-term WHO insider, Gates’ vaccine alliance GAVI actually appears to be the directing power behind the WHO.

The two — Gates and the WHO — have been working hand in hand pushing for a global vaccination campaign, and Gates has a great deal of money invested in these vaccines. We’ve also seen extraordinary efforts to censor natural alternatives and inexpensive, readily available and clearly effective drugs, such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, and it appears the reason for this is probably because they’re competitors to the vaccine.

Emergency use authorization for pandemic vaccines are only given when there are no other treatments, so vilifying alternatives has been a key strategy to protect vaccine profits.

The parallels between Rockefeller and Gates

As noted by Shiva, the comparisons between Rockefeller and Gates are quite apt. Rockefeller created not just Big Oil but also Big Finance and Big Pharma. He had intimate connections with IG Farben. There was a Standard Oil IG Farben company. Without the fossil fuels of Standard Oil, IG Farben couldn’t have made synthetic fertilizers or fuels.

In 1910, Rockefeller and Carnegie produced The Flexner Report, which was the beginning of the end for natural medicine in the conventional medical school curriculum. They eliminated it because it saw natural medicine as a hugely competitive threat to the new pharmaceuticals that were primarily derived from the oil industry.

Much of Rockefeller’s history has been captured by Lily Kay, who sifted through Molecular Vision of Life’s archives. There, she discovered that the Nazi regime, which was a eugenics regime that thought some people were inferior and needed to be exterminated to keep the superior race pure, didn’t vanish when Germany lost the war.

Eugenics simply migrated to the U.S., and was taken up by Rockefeller under the term of “social psychology as biological determinants.” The word gene did not exist at that time. Instead, they called it “atoms of determinism.” Rockefeller paid for much of the eugenics research, which ultimately resulted in the silencing and suppression of true health.

To be healthy means to be whole, and wholeness refers to the “self-organized brilliance of your integrated body as a complex system,” Shiva says. That’s what Ayurveda is based on, and even this ancient system of medicine has been attacked in recent times. The notion of genetic determination ignores this foundational wholeness, seeking instead to divide the human body into mechanical components controlled by your genes.

“Coming back to the parallels, Rockefeller was behind it because he was driving the chemical industry. When the wars were over, they said, ‘Oh my gosh, we have all these chemicals to sell.’ And they invented the Green Revolution and pushed the Green Revolution on India.

“Rockefeller, the World Bank, the U.S. all worked together, and if the farmers of India are protesting today, it’s a result of Rockefeller’s initiative, the Green Revolution in India. Most people don’t realize what high cost India has borne; what high cost the state of Panjon has born.

“Then you have Gates joining up with Rockefeller and creating the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) … which pretends to be his solution to climate change. I say, “My god, what kind of stage has the world reached that absolute nonsense can pass the science?” I’ll give you just three examples from his chapter on agriculture, in which he talks about how we grow things.

“First of all, plants are not things. Plants are sentient beings. Our culture knows it. We have the sacred tulsi. We have the sacred neem. We have the sacred banyan. They are sentient beings. So many people are awake to animal rights. I think we need more people awake to plant rights and really tell Mr. Gates, “No, plants are not things.”

“He goes on to celebrate Norman Borlaug, who was in the DuPont defense lab, whose job it was to push these four chemicals by adapting the plants [to them]. So, he created the dwarf variety, because the tall varieties are free varieties … [Gates] says we’re eating food because of Borlaug. No, people are starving because of Borlaug. The farmers are dying because of Borlaug.”

Gates offers problems as solutions

Gates hails synthetic fertilizer is the greatest agricultural invention. “Doesn’t he realize synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are creating desertification, dead zones in the ocean and nitric oxide, which is a greenhouse gas?” Shiva says. In short, he’s offering the problem as the solution. Gates also, apparently, does not understand that nitrogen-fixing plants can fix nitrogen. He incorrectly claims that plants cannot fix nitrogen.

Gates is equally wrong about methane production from livestock. “Have you smelt methane behind nomadic tribes?” Shiva asks. “Have you ever smelt methane behind our sacred cow in India? No, they don’t emit methane.” The reason cows in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) emit methane that stinks to high heaven is because they’re fed an unnatural diet of grains and placed in crowded quarters. It’s not a natural phenomenon. It’s a man-made one.

“You know what Mr. Gates wants to teach us? He says cows make methane because of their poor stomachs,” Shiva says. “They call them containers. I think we should sue him for undoing basic biology 101. You’ve talked about how he controls the WHO. He’s also trying to take control of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

“[FAO] has recognized ecological agriculture is the way to go and supported [regenerative] agriculture up until last year, when Gates started to take charge. Now he’s moving the food summit to New York. Five hundred organizations have said, ‘This is no longer a food summit, it’s a poison summit. The poison cartel and Bill Gates are running it to push more poisons, now under new names. So, we have a lot of work to do.’”

The answer to the environmental problems we face is not more of the very things that created the problems in the first place, which is what Gates proposes. The answer is regenerative agriculture and real food.

“When people are eating healthy food, there is no problem,” Shiva says. “[Gates] wants to commit a crime against our gut microbiome, pushing more fake food through Impossible Food. And he wants to create conditions so that real food will disappear. That’s why we all have to organize together and the scientists have to start being protected.

“There’s an extinction taking place. They call it the sixth mass extinction. Most people think the sixth mass extinction is about other species. They don’t realize large parts of humanity are being pushed to extinction. Food is health, as Hippocrates said, [and that requires] indigenous systems of learning, ecological agriculture, small farmers.

“In Bill Gates’ design, all this that makes life, life, that makes society, society, that makes community, community, that makes healthy beings, he would like to push this to extinction because he’s afraid of independence, freedom, health and our beingness. He wants us to be ‘thingness,’ but we are beings …

“The worst crime against the Earth and against humanity is using gene editing technologies for gene drives, which is a collaboration of Gates with DARPA, the defense research system. Gene drives are deliberately driving [us] to extinction. Now he does it in the name of ending malaria. No. It’s about driving to extinction.

“Amaranth is a sacred food for us. It’s a very, very important source of nutrition … There’s an application in that DARPA-Gates report of driving the amaranth to extinction through gene rights. And when this was raised at the Convention on Biological Diversity, do you know what he did? He actually hired a public relations agency and bribed government representatives to not say no. Can you imagine?”

Gates’ long-term play

Gates clearly had a long-term vision in mind from the start. His growing control of the WHO began over a decade ago. Over this span of time, he also started transitioning into Big Pharma and the fake food industry, which would allow his influence over the WHO’s global health recommendations to really pay off.

While fake foods have many potential problems, one in particular is elevated levels of the omega-6 fat linoleic acid (LA). If you eat real food, you’re going to get more than enough LA. Our industrial Western diet, however, provides far more than is needed for optimal health already, and engineered meats are particularly loaded with LA, as they’re made with genetically modified soy oil and canola oil.

This massive excess of LA will encourage and promote virtually all degenerative diseases, thereby accelerating the destruction of human health. In addition to that, Gates is also investing in pharmaceuticals, which of course are touted as the answer to degenerative disease. Again, his solutions to ill health are actually the problem. Shiva says:

“Gates … [is] entering every field that has to do with life. Our work in Navdanya, which means nine seeds, is basically work on biodiversity in agriculture. We started to bring together all the work that he’s doing in taking over. I mentioned the Rockefeller Green Revolution, now the Gates-Rockefeller Green Revolution in Africa. The next step he wants to push is … digital agriculture.

“He calls it Gates Ag One, and the headquarters of this is exactly where the Monsanto headquarters are, in St. Louis, Missouri. Gates Ag One is one [type of] agriculture for the whole world, organized top down. He’s written about it. We have a whole section on it in our new report, ‘Gates to a Global Empire.’”

Stolen farmer data is repackaged and sold back to them

What does digital agriculture entail? For starters, it entails the introduction of a digital surveillance system. So far, Shiva’s organization has managed to prevent Gates from introducing a seed surveillance startup, where farmers would not be allowed to grow seeds unless approved by Gates surveillance system.

The data mining, Shiva says, is needed because they don’t actually know agriculture. This is why Gates finances the policing of farmers. He needs to mine their data to learn how farming is actually done. This knowledge is then repackaged and sold back to the farmers. It’s evil genius at its finest.

Through his funding, Gates now also controls the world’s seed supply, and his financing of gene editing research has undercut biosafety laws across the world. As explained by Shiva, the only country that doesn’t have biosafety laws is the U.S. “The rest of the world does because we have a treaty called the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety,” she says.

“While he created the appearance of philanthropy, what he’s doing is giving tiny bits of money to very vital institutions. But with those bits of money, they attract government money, which was running those institutions. Now, because of his clout, he is taking control of the agenda of these institutions. In the meantime, he’s pushing patenting, be it on drugs, vaccines or on seeds.”

Taken together, Gates ends up wielding enormous control over global agriculture and food production, and there’s virtually no evidence to suggest he has good intentions.

The anatomy of monopolization

The company that collects patents on gene-edited organisms, both in health and agriculture, is Editas, founded by a main financial investor for the Gates Foundation. Gates is also a big investor in Editas.

“So, here’s a company called Editas to edit the world as if it is a Word program. The two scientists who got the Nobel Prize this year have both been funded in their research by Gates. My mind went back to how Rockefeller financed the research, got the Nobel Prize, and then made the money.

“So, you finance the research. Then you finance the public institutions, whether they be national or international. You invest and force them down the path where they can only use what is your patented intellectual property. And, as he has said in an interview, his smartest investment was vaccines, because it is a 1-to-20 return. Put $1 in and make $20. How many billions of dollars have been put in? You can imagine how many trillions will be made.

“At the end of it, where does food come from? It comes from seed. He wants to control it. It comes from land. He’s controlling that. He’s become the biggest farmland owner [in the U.S.]. But you need weather [control]. You need a stable climate.

“So, what could be a weapon of control of agriculture? Weather modification. He calls it geoengineering. This is engineering of the climate. Again, making it look like he’s going to solve global warming by creating global cooling.”

As explained by Shiva, Gates is also heavily invested in climate modification technologies that not only will destabilize the earth’s climate systems more, but also can be weaponized against the people by controlling rainfall and drought. In India, they’ve been having massive hail during harvest time, which destroys the harvest.

Is the UN subservient to Gates?

According to Shiva, Gates is also corrupting the UN system, just like he’s corrupted world governments and the WHO, and in so doing, he’s destroying the efforts built over the last three decades to protect the global environment.

“Whether it be the climate treaty, the biodiversity treaty or the atmospheric treaties, he is absolutely behaving as if the UN is his subservient institution,” Shiva says. “[He thinks] governments and regulatory bodies should not exist … and that people in democracy have no business to speak. [If they do], they’re conspiracy theorists.”

Taking down Gates’ empires

As it stands right now, ordinary people are forced to fight battles that are in actuality rooted in institutional, structural and societal crimes. These crimes really need to be addressed the way Rockefeller’s Standard Oil empire was addressed. In the case of Gates, his empire is actually multiple empires, and they all need to be dismantled. To that end, I will be collaborating with Shiva and Regeneration International, which she co-founded, on a project to boycott Gates’ empires.

“I’ve noticed that no matter what the movement, they’re using the word regeneration now. It could be a health movement, a democracy movement, a peace movement, a women’s movement — everyone has realized that regeneration is what we have to shift to,” Shiva says.

“So, what do we need to be doing in the next decade? For me, the next decade is the determining decade, because these petty minds’ insatiable greed want to go so fast that if, in the next decade, we don’t protect what has to be protected, build resilient alternatives and take away the sainthood from this criminal, they will leave nothing much to be saved.

“The poison cartel is also big pharma. People think agriculture is here, medicine is there. No. The same criminal corporations gave us agrichemicals. They gave us bad medicine that creates more disease than it solves. So, Big PharmaBig AgBig Poison — it’s all one. And Bill Gates is holding it all together even more, and trying to make them bigger because he has investments in all of them …

“I think [seeds] is where we have to begin … I’m hoping that we will be able, together, to launch a global movement soon to take back our seeds from the international seed banks. The strategy is we need to remind the world that these are public institutions [and] that they’re accountable to the farmers whose collections these [seeds] are …

“On the food question, I think that’s the big one because food and health go [together]. In Ayurveda, it says food is the best medicine, and if you don’t eat good food, then no medicine can cure whatever disease you have. The best medicine is good eating. And Hippocrates said ‘Let food be thy medicine.’ So, I think this is the time to really grow a very big global campaign for food freedom.

“Food freedom means you cannot destroy our right to grow food. Secondly, you cannot destroy our governments’ obligations to us to support regenerative agriculture rather than support degenerative agriculture and subsidize it. And third, I think we should call for a worldwide boycott of lab foods …

“Another part of this should be, don’t let Big Tech enter our bodies. Let big tech not enter life sciences … These guys will make life illegal. Living will be illegal except as a little piece in their machine through their permission.”

Each year, Navdanya holds a two-week campaign on food freedom starting October 2, which is nonviolence day. We now need to take that campaign to the global stage, and I will do my part to aid this effort. So, mark your calendar and prepare to join us in a global boycott of food that makes you sick — processed food, GMO foods, lab-created foods, fake meats, all of it.

More information

You can learn more about Shiva’s work and her many projects on Navdanya.org. During the first week of April every year, Navdanya gives a five-day course called Annam, Food as Health, via Zoom. In this course, you’ll learn about soil and plant biodiversity and healthy eating for optimal health.

You can also learn more by reading the report “Earth Rising, Women Rising: Regenerating the Earth, Seeding the Future,” written by female farmers. And, again, mark your calendars and plan your participation in the food freedom campaign, starting October 2, 2021.

“When all the spiritual forces, all of nature’s forces and most of people’s forces are aligned together, what can [a few] billionaires, technocrats — who want to be richer than they are, greedier than they are, more violent than they are — do?” Shiva says. “They don’t count in the long run, really. It’s just that we cannot afford to not do the things that we can do.”

Reposted with permission from Mercola.com

Fighting Climate Change with Plants: An Inefficient Solution from the Salk Institute

Excerpt from a book in progress

On March 22, 2021, The Del Mar Garden Club of Southern California held an informational session called “Fighting Climate Change with Plants”. As a person who is extremely concerned about the looming apocalyptic events due to climate chaos, but not extremely well informed about what we can do to prevent them, I signed up.

I quickly realized that the presentation was not going in the direction that I had hoped, meaning extolling the innate virtues of plants that have the ability to sequester carbon if we just let Mother Nature do her job. No. Featured speaker Joanne Chory, a plant geneticist from the Salk Institute, based in San Diego, CA shared how she and her team were genetically engineering plants to have bigger roots, longer roots, and roots that sequester more carbon by manipulating the gene that makes suberin to make more suberin and therefore hold more carbon, and then put those genes into crop plants. They were going to start with Sorghum. (I will talk about why that is interesting later.) She showed slides depicting what would be manipulated and how the roots were in fact growing longer in preliminary trials. I actually considered that it might be a good idea. For about a second.

Then I remembered, and she confirmed, that the goal was to get these seeds into the hands of every farmer in America. That means to sell for a profit. With a technology premium of course. She claimed that the genetic engineering that she just said was genetic engineering was not considered by the FDA to be a genetically modified organism (GMO). This is because other species (like fish DNA) were not being introduced into the test subject plants (like GMO tomatoes). In these plants, their own genes were being manipulated. This type of genetic engineering has been classified (wrongly) as a hybrid by our FDA. She confirmed that the seeds would need to be repurchased by farmers (instead of saving them for free) every year.

Chory was very clear that the goal was to get the seeds planted on 500 million hectares, which is 1.2 billion acres. To put this in context we currently only have 896 million acres of farmland in America. My blood began to boil as I realized their goal was to take over all agriculture and push GMO seeds even on organic and biodynamic farmland. I am not asserting that their intention is to maliciously wipe out organic farmland. She made it very clear that their intention was to draw down 4-8 gigatons of carbon per year and play a major role in reversing climate change and saving the planet. The end result, however, which should not be ignored, would be that all of the acres that are currently being farmed as organic or biodynamic would need to be converted to GMO farming in order for them to meet their goals. And you can be sure anyone interested in funding their work, whether it be a San Diego philanthropist or the government, would be invested in Salk meeting their goals.

Chory mentioned that they had an advantage, however, with the technology, because the ag industry has farm subsidies (ie: tax pay dollars) and farmers would be supported to plant these crops. (My question is will they NOT be supported if they don’t?) In addition, Chory pointed out that the Carbon Bank was projected to be in place by 2030 and corporations would be able to pay farmers for sequestering the carbon they produce. So instead of being innovative and creating methods to reduce carbon emissions, or use technology that runs on renewable, clean energy, corporations can go on their merry way utilizing fossil fuels and just pay someone else to clean up their mess. Hmmm…

The Salk Institute scientist showed how they currently have 4 test sites in America and plan to have 20 by the end of the year, to test the suberin enhanced, carbon-absorbing plants in different types of soils. They also needed to confirm that the plants did in fact sequester more carbon. For some reason, she mentioned that the soil in Yuma, where one of the GMO test plots lies, “is almost completely devoid of nutrients in the soil.” Interesting. So GMO farming made the soil completely devoid of nutrients (and its ability to sequester carbon) and now they want to use GMOs to fix this problem? She additionally admitted that Agriculture (and the predominant form of agriculture in the USA is GMO) is a major contributor to greenhouse gases. Exactly.

She said “Are are on an aggressive timeline to meet the climate crisis change,” leaving out the fact that GMO scientists and farmers helped create the climate crisis by monocropping, factory farming, and the wholesale destruction of our topsoil.

Then the question and answer period started and a person asked, “Are there any native plants that already do this?”

Chory answered, “I don’t know.” She had not researched native plants! I was shocked. Product development 101; before you invest any time or energy into making anything – is to do your research and see if that product already exists! Geez, Louise.

Someone asked her if she gardened, as it was a gardening club after all, and she responded, “You know my daughter likes to say that I know a plant better on the inside than the out. So if you put a canola plant in front of me I probably wouldn’t know.” Excuse me? A person who wants every farmer in America to buy her company’s products cannot identify a canola plant? My mother taught me to see the good in everyone but my brain was telling me that this was just not good on any level.

To confirm or dispel my suspicions I turned to an expert, one of our Moms Across America advisors, Dr. Don Huber. A 60+ year plant pathologist and Professor Emeritus at Purdue University, a verified expert on plants and soil. He pointed out the following issues with the Salk project, in summary, below.

1. If they wanted the suberin to sequester more carbon they would have to stop spraying all glyphosate. Glyphosate disrupts the shikimate pathway and Suberin is formed in the shikimate pathway. Glyphosate, and some other herbicides, are strong mineral chelators that immobilize iron (Fe), a critical co-factor for peroxidases and other enzymes so suberin and lignin production in the roots can be stopped because adequate Fe is not available for it to be formed.

2. Focusing on the gene that produces suberin in the roots is myopic. That means only focusing on one aspect, not the whole. Suberin is produced through secondary metabolism.  Photosynthesis is the best way to sequester carbon, and that requires every cell of the whole plant.

3. If they truly want to increase carbon sequestration they should look at how to make all plants healthier for more efficient photosynthesis. The best way to make the plants healthier is to stop using glyphosate and other agrochemicals because they damage the necessary physiological pathways of the plant and therefore reduce its ability to sequester carbon.

4. Getting rid of glyphosate use in agriculture would accomplish many things that improve the health of plants including increase nutrient density of the plant, increase disease resistance, increase carbon sequestration and increase yield. The organic regeneratively tended soil would also increase in organic matter and absorb tons of carbon per acre separately from the plant. The increased organic matter in the soil will absorb more water, reduce drought and erosion, and minimize the potential dust-bowl effects of climate change.

5. Diverting energy to make the roots larger through suberization would compromise nutrient density and yield of the rest of the plant. Root growth is dependent on critical micronutrients such as manganese (Mn), calcium (Ca), and boron (B) whose availabilities are disrupted by various agricultural and environmental factors that are already often in short supply for primary growth.

6. Using the sorghum plant is an interesting trial choice because it is already one of the leading plants that sequester carbon. Claiming that it was only the genetic manipulation that led to the carbon sequestration will be something to look out for. Comparative studies will need to be done not only with the same species of plants but with other native plants, perennial grasses, maize (corn), and sugar cane (a high carbon-absorbing plant), or other c4 highly photosynthetically efficient plants as well.

7. Focusing on sequestering only carbon does not fix the problem. Nitrous Oxide is just as much of the climate problem (heat being retained in our atmosphere) and it can be addressed through nitrogen-fixing plants like legumes, or nitrification inhibiting plants (climax ecosystem species) which can be used in regenerative organic farming as cover crops.

8. Focusing on the roots also means creating a landfill so to speak, of carbon. Huber explained that we don’t want a dump of carbon. We want the carbon working for us to produce an abundance of nutrient-dense, safe food at an affordable price. We can do that by maintaining the health (eliminating toxic agrochemicals) and growth of the plant through photosynthesis.

Here’s the problem (for them). The Salk Institute, Bayer, Dow/Dupont, or other major conglomerates cannot patent photosynthesis (yet, anyway) and make money off of it. Mother Nature created that a long time ago. The idea to genetically engineer the gene that produces suberin, while an interesting concept that may be successful in its own singular intended outcome in a lab setting, is overall an inefficient plan for reversing climate change. There are plants existing now, and methods that exist now, for sequestering carbon and we don’t have to wait another 15-20 years for the trial testing and implementation for planting 1.2 billion acres with these GMO plants for 4-8 gigatons of carbon sequestration per year.

Where is the money coming from to fund this project?

One more issue that must be acknowledged is the funding. This project will take dozens of brilliant scientists 10 years of development at Salk and then hundreds more people for marketing and sales. Hundreds of thousands or millions of farmers and their resources will be needed to implement the project and absorb the carbon for another 10 years. Those resources need to be spent on other issues that are far more efficient and necessary.

Instead of spending countless hundreds of millions, much of it likely taxpayer dollars, on genetically engineered plants, why not direct that funding to farmers to transition to regenerative organic, and start sequestering carbon right now? Or how about providing homes for our homeless, evicted by Covid repercussions or severe weather, innovation education for our children, school lunches that won’t make them sick, or giving care to veterans and elderly that leaves them with at least an iota of dignity? Why not put the money somewhere that will take care of thousands or millions of underserved people right now instead of to a few dozen scientists in a lab in Southern California? It simply is an injustice to spend money on a “pipedream” as Dr. Huber classified it, rather than the harsh reality millions are facing right now and the available solutions, like regenerative organic agriculture.

According to Regeneration International:

Just transitioning 10 percent of agricultural production to best practice regenerative (organic) systems will sequester enough CO2 to reverse climate change and restore the global climate.

Ten percent of agricultural lands under BEAM (Biologically Enhanced Agricultural Management- a process developed by Dr. David Johnson of New Mexico State University, that uses compost with a high diversity of soil microorganisms) would sequester 18.4 gross tonnages (GT) of CO2/yr. Ten percent of grasslands under regenerative grazing would sequester 9.8 Gt of CO2/yr. This would result in 28.2 Gt of CO2/yr being sequestered into the soil which is just under double the amount of sequestration needed to draw out more CO2 than is currently being emitted.

This plan is not a pipedream, it is doable. Farmers are transitioning to regenerative organic agriculture right now. Consumers are seeing the benefits, and they want food that is not only good for their families but good for the soil and planet as well. We already have the solution, and it is biodiverse, beautiful, healthy, and rewarding. It is regenerative organic agriculture.

Moms Across America requests that the Salk Institute reinvest their funding for this suberin genetic engineering into supporting farmers transition to organic. We request that philanthropists and the government also invest in nonprofits and groups who are supporting the transition to organic such as Rodale Institute, Savory Institute, Regeneration International, Farmer’s Footprint, and Kiss the Ground; and consumers organizations who are educating the public about the benefits of these foods (because after all, someone needs to buy the food) such as the Organic Consumers Association, Green America, and Moms Across America. Thank you.

Regenerative Grazing – Increased Production, Biodiversity Resilience, Profits and a Climate Change Solution

Leer en español aquí

 

Picture courtesy of Richard Teague

Around 68 percent of the world’s agricultural lands (eight billion acres as compared to four billion acres of croplands) are used for grazing. The majority of these landscapes are unsuitable for cropping. They are home to over a billion people who are dependent on the livestock that graze on them for their living.  These landscapes are often some of most degraded lands on the planet due to deforestation and inappropriate grazing practices.

The good news is that there are a range of grazing systems that are proven to regenerate these ecosystems, increasing ground covers, biodiversity, soil organic matter, water holding capacity, and production outcomes.

Adaptive Multi-paddock (AMP) Grazing

One of the most successful methods of managing weeds and improving the productivity of pastures is called adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing. In many of the current grazing systems, where the animals are not rotated across pastures and rangelands, the animals tend to overgraze on the species that they prefer and continuously eat them all the way down to the ground, even pulling them out by the roots. This devastates the most nutritious grasses and allows weeds and invasive species to proliferate. Too many grazing systems allow the stock to overgraze, leaving bare, exposed soil that ends up being eroded by wind and water. Much of the environmental degradation in arid and semi-arid areas (which currently comprise 40% of the Earth’s lands) is due to degenerative grazing practices.

AMP rotates a large number of livestock across smaller paddocks or delineating grazing areas for short periods, forcing them to thoroughly graze all the edible plants. Being massed together (mob grazing) forces the livestock to eat all the edible plants, not just their preferred species, resulting in a more efficient use of the pasture.

The higher stock density also ensures that weeds are crushed and trampled and that the manure is kicked and scattered across the ground, fertilizing the soil. The animals are then moved to another pasture or paddock and the process is repeated. There is a continuous rotation of controlled grazing in different pastures, and animals only return to the original paddock when the grasses and groundcover has regrown.

The key to AMP systems is intense, short periods of grazing that ensure that fewer than 50 percent of the available forage is eaten. This means that ground covers will not shed too many roots and will consequently recover more quickly. Research shows that these systems produce much more feed per hectare, are better at efficiently using rainfall, and significantly improve soil health and fertility. Farms managed with AMP systems can carry more stock per acre than those with fixed stocking systems.

Picture Courtesy of Christine Jones and Acres USA

Another very important benefit of these rotational systems is better control of internal parasites. Starting with clean stock is important. Most stock get infected from the eggs of the parasites in the bare soil. By always ensuring that less that 50 percent the leaf area is eaten, ranchers can prevent the mouths of livestock from being in contact with the eggs of the parasites. The other important management technique is to know the length of the lifecycle of the parasites and to not return the stock to a

Picture courtesy of Richard Teague

paddock/cell until the life cycle has finished. In some cases this will require a period of up to three life cycles to ensure that the paddock /cell is clean.

Researchers have demonstrated that the appropriate time-managed grazing systems will not kill a single plant and will increase the biodiversity of native plants, animals, insects, and microorganisms in the farm ecosystem.

Some of the most successful examples of AMP use multiple species in succession, such as grazing cattle followed by sheep followed by poultry, as each will tend to eat different species.

AMP grazing with sheep (courtesy of Google Photos).

Rotational grazing is also being use with many poultry species for both eggs and meat. Following cattle with chickens is a great way to spread cattle manure and to reduce pests and weeds, since chickens eat the bugs and weed seeds. Geese can also be very useful in managing weeds. Young Chinese geese can be trained to eat specific weeds by feeding these weeds to goslings when they are very young. They develop a taste for these weeds and they become their preferred forage. The geese will actively seek them out and graze them down.

 

AMP grazing with young poultry (courtesy of Google Photos).

The published evidence shows that correctly managed pastures can build up soil organic matter faster than many other agricultural systems, and this carbon is stored deeper in the soil.

Research by Machmuller and and others show that regenerative grazing practices can regenerate soil and ground covers in three years. The ranches studied increased their cation exchange capacity (nutrient availability) by 95 percent and increased their water holding capacity by 34 percent.

These grazing systems are some of the best ways to increase soil organic matter levels. Machmuller et al. noted that they sequestered 29,360 kg of COper hectare per year. This is an enormous amount of carbon dioxide being taken out of the air by photosynthesis and converted into organic matter to feed the soil microbiome.  Several studies show that the amount of CO2 sequestered from the atmosphere is greater than greenhouse gas emissions from livestock systems showing that scaling up regenerative grazing can help to reverse climate change. There are several soil carbon credit schemes that are paying farmers and ranchers for increasing soil organic matter levels.

Regenerative grazing can turn livestock production from being one of the major contributors to climate change into one of the largest solutions to climate change.

There are many farming and research organizations involved in scaling up regenerative grazing systems on every arable continent. There is now a considerable body of published science and evidence-based practices showing that these systems regenerate degraded lands and increase pasture species diversity thereby improving productivity, water holding capacity, and soil organic matter levels. There are numerous excellent books, websites, online social groups, and organizations that can provide detailed information on the most effective systems.

Some of the resource links are provided below

Regeneration International

https://www.facebook.com/regenerationinternational/

Books

Acres USA is a great online bookstore for Regenerative Agriculture

Another excellent publisher of books on regenerative and organic food and farming is Chelsea Green Publishers.

Chelsea Green published Ronnie Cummins’ 2020 book on Regenerative and Organic food and farming as a solution to Climate Change: Grassroots Rising: A Call to Acion on Climate, Farming, Food, and a Green New Deal.

Professional Trainers/Consultants

Savory Hubs

Facebook groups – there are many more than these – search to find local groups

Soils4Climate

Regenerative Agriculture Group

Regenerative Agriculture to Reverse Global Warming

Soils For Life

Innovation in Agriculture

Andre Leu is the International Director for Regeneration International. To sign up for RI’s email newsletter, click here.

Ronnie Cummins is co-founder of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and Regeneration International. To keep up with RI’s news and alerts, sign up here.

 

Organic Farming Practices Could Boost Carbon Sequestration By Double-Digits, New Study Finds

While organic agriculture has long been hailed as key to building a sustainable food system, a new study pinpoints the critical role that it could play in combating climate change. In a meta-analysis of over 4,000 studies, researchers found that best management organic farming practices could lead to a significant double-digit increase in the amount of carbon captured in soil.

Organic farmers could be amplifying their positive climate impact by adopting the best agricultural practices to boost carbon sequestration. The study, undertaken by scientists at the University of Maryland in collaboration with Washington D.C.-based nonprofit research organisation The Organic Center and published in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, found that the amount of carbon captured in soil increased by 18%, while the amount of microbial biomass carbon storage went up by 30%.

Over 4,000 scientific articles were included in the meta-analysis led by Professor Kate Tully and Dr. Rob Crystal-Ornelas to identify the specific carbon-building techniques that farmers could implement.

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