Soil Carbon: Putting Carbon back where it belongs: In the earth

Tony Lovell will explain the reasoning behind how more green growing plants means more captured carbon dioxide — more water — more production — more biodiversity — more profit. Did you know that a 1% change in soil organic matter across just one-quarter of the world’s land area could sequester 300 billion tonnes of physical CO2. TEDxDubbo focused attention on what we call FACETS — Food, Agriculture, Climate, Energy, Topsoil and Sustainability. These FACETS are actually potent ideas shared by everyday people with an interest in these disciplines. In many of these topics there is an awareness campaign; the aim of bringing our community together united against catastrophic failures in our food-chain, environment and health. It is worth mentioning that we are also indebted to our natural systems for our economic wealth. Failures in Food, Agriculture, Climate, Energy, Topsoil and Sustainability are not just a local issue — they are a global concern.

Las Pilas Ranch: A Tale of Restoration

Author: Seth Itzkan

Las Pilas Ranch: Restored

The Las Pilas Ranch in Coahuila, Mexico, is a model of ecological restoration using Holistic Planned Grazing. Over a twenty five year period from 1978 to 2003, the barren landscape was completely revived. The images below show the transformation. Although the first picture is from 1963, the restoration with Holistic Management didn’t actually start until 1978. During the restoration period, the livestock population was doubled and grazing was done according to a plan that paid close attention to grass health.

1963. Photo by Guillermo Osuna Las Pilas Restored, 20032003. Photo by Guillermo Osuna

Which picture has more water?

Both images above are taken from the same location. Guillermo Osuna, the proprietor of the land, explains that when he began to manage the land, it was common to have dirt dams to capture the runoff – as there was no grass cover. A one-inch rain could fill the trough (pictured above, from 1963). After the land was restored, they could have a six-inch rain, and still no standing water (it’s all absorbed). There is no need for the dirt dams and artificial troughs now. Those have grown over with vegetation and the springs are running year-round. Livestock is now watered via gravity fed pools from streams that run throughout the dry season.  Mr. Osuna says there is twice as much surface water now as there once was, and he has also doubled the herd density.

Keep Reading on Planet Tech Associates

France has a Great Plan for its Soil – And it’s Not Just About Wine

Author: John Quinton

French wine lovers have always taken their soil very seriously. But now the country’s government has introduced fresh reasons for the rest of the world to pay attention to their terroir.

As industrial emissions of greenhouse gases continue to increase and concerns about climate change grow, scientists and policy wonks are searching for potential solutions. Could part of the answer lie in the soil beneath our feet? French agriculture minister Stéphane Le Foll thinks so.

Soil stores vast amounts of carbon, far more than all the carbon in the world’s forests and atmosphere combined. Plants take carbon out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis and when they die the carbon they stored is returned to the soil.

This forms part of the soil’s organic matter: a mix of undecayed plant and animal tissues, transient organic molecules and more stable material often referred to as humus. It is food for organisms in the soil that play a vital role in cycling nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. These organisms decompose the organic material and return much of the carbon to the atmosphere leaving only a small proportion in the soil.

Keep Reading in The Conversation

The Littlest Farmhands

Author: Jop de Vrieze

Abstract

Scientists have recently discovered thousands of microbial species living in, on, and around plant roots that help plants survive and thrive—for instance by facilitating the uptake of nutrients and water, warding off pests and diseases, and enabling plants to cope with drought, flooding, toxins, or extreme temperatures. Scientists are trying to harness these symbionts for use in agriculture. Several microbial products are already in use on the farm, and major agrochemical companies are investing heavily in research to develop others. To what extent microbial products can eventually increase yields or reduce the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers is still unclear, however.

Keep Reading in Science

The Healing Power of Regenerative Organic Agriculture

September 20, 2015 marked 25 years since my father, Robert Rodale, was killed in a car accident in Russia. If on that fateful day someone would have asked him what his legacy was to be, I know for a fact he would have answered: “Regenerative organic agriculture.”

To him, organic alone was not enough. He believed we needed a commitment to making things better. But more importantly, he understood that nature inherently makes things better when left to do her work. Nature heals itself, just as our bodies inherently attempt to heal themselves when wounded. We needed, he thought, to get nature on our team to make organic agriculture reach its true power.

A lot of people thought he was crazy. But some thought he was onto something.

After he died, the idea of regenerative agriculture seemed forgotten as the organic movement grew. But lately, there has been a resurgence of support behind the idea of regeneration. Thanks to the work of Tom Newmark, with the Carbon Underground, people are gathering around the tribal fire of regenerative organic agriculture in a way that my father would have only dreamed about. There’s even a growing movement toward regenerative capitalism, an idea proposed by the Capital Institute‘s John Fullerton.

Keep Reading on Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen

 

Connecting the Dots Between Pollution, Global Hunger, and Water Scarcity

Global hunger, pollution, and water scarcity – how are these interrelated? Courtney White, a former archaeologist and a Sierra Club activist, connects the dots for us in his book Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey Through Carbon Country.

Growing up in Phoenix, Arizona, he first became concerned about some of the environmental issues going on in the 1990s, at which time he joined the Sierra Club.

“I met a rancher at a Sierra Club meeting in 1996. His name was Jim Winder… This was back in the mid-’90s when ranchers and environmentalists were going after each other in court, in public opinions, in newspapers, and all kinds of things.

Jim said, ‘Let’s find some common ground between ranchers and environmentalists.’ He said, ‘I ranch differently. I move my cows around the ranch in a certain way trying to mimic natural grazing behavior of wild animals – bison, for example.

‘I said, ‘That’s interesting.’ I went to his ranch and saw what he was doing. He’s growing grass. He had water, wildlife, and all these things.”

The Quivira Coalition

In 1997, the activist and the rancher formed a non-profit organization called The Quivira Coalition, along with conservationist Barbara Johnson. Together, they advocated land management practices that help restore land back to health.One of the keys to land restoration is carbon sequestration. Carbon is the most abundant element on Earth after oxygen. Dark, rich soils contain high amounts of carbon. This element is the tie that binds grazing management, land health, food, water, and rising pollution levels together.

Keep Reading on Mercola.com

Farmers Put Down the Plow for More Productive Soil

Author: Erica Goode

FORT WORTH — Gabe Brown is in such demand as a speaker that for every invitation he accepts, he turns down 10 more. At conferences, like the one held here at a Best Western hotel recently, people line up to seek his advice.

“The greatest roadblock to solving a problem is the human mind,” he tells audiences.

Mr. Brown, a balding North Dakota farmer who favors baseball caps and red-striped polo shirts, is not talking about disruptive technology start-ups, political causes, or the latest self-help fad.

He is talking about farming, specifically soil-conservation farming, a movement that promotes leaving fields untilled, “green manures” and other soil-enhancing methods with an almost evangelistic fervor.

Such farming methods, which mimic the biology of virgin land, can revive degenerated earth, minimize erosion, encourage plant growth and increase farmers’ profits, their proponents say. And by using them, Mr. Brown told more than 250 farmers and ranchers who gathered at the hotel for the first Southern Soil Health Conference, he has produced crops that thrive on his 5,000-acre farm outside of Bismarck, N.D., even during droughts or flooding.

He no longer needs to use nitrogen fertilizer or fungicide, he said, and he produces yields that are above the county average with less labor and lower costs. “Nature can heal if we give her the chance,” Mr. Brown said.

Keep Reading in The New York Times

We’re Treating Soil Like Dirt. It’s a Fatal Mistake, as Our Lives Depend on it

Author: George Monbiot

Imagine a wonderful world, a planet on which there was no threat of climate breakdown, no loss of freshwater, no antibiotic resistance, no obesity crisis, no terrorism, no war. Surely, then, we would be out of major danger? Sorry. Even if everything else were miraculously fixed, we’re finished if we don’t address an issue considered so marginal and irrelevant that you can go for months without seeing it in a newspaper.

It’s literally and – it seems – metaphorically, beneath us. To judge by its absence from the media, most journalists consider it unworthy of consideration. But all human life depends on it. We knew this long ago, but somehow it has been forgotten. As a Sanskrit text written in about 1500BC noted: “Upon this handful of soil our survival depends. Husband it and it will grow our food, our fuel and our shelter and surround us with beauty. Abuse it and the soil will collapse and die, taking humanity with it.”

The issue hasn’t changed, but we have. Landowners around the world are now engaged in an orgy of soil destruction so intense that, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, the world on average has just 60 more years of growing crops. Even in Britain, which is spared the tropical downpours that so quickly strip exposed soil from the land, Farmers Weekly reports, we have “only 100 harvests left”.

To keep up with global food demand, the UN estimates, 6m hectares (14.8m acres) of new farmland will be needed every year. Instead, 12m hectares a year are lost through soil degradation. We wreck it, then move on, trashing rainforests and other precious habitats as we go. Soil is an almost magical substance, a living system that transforms the materials it encounters, making them available to plants. That handful the Vedic master showed his disciples contains more micro-organisms than all the people who have ever lived on Earth. Yet we treat it like, well, dirt.

Keep Reading in The Guardian

Let’s Talk About Soil

[English | EspañolFrançais | DeutschPortuguêsItalianoعربي中国Türk]

This animated film tells the reality of soil resources around the world, covering the issues of degradation, urbanization, land grabbing and overexploitation; the film offers options to make the way we manage our soils more sustainable.

View more videos on the The Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies Vimeo Page

Food Fight 2015: Taking Down the Degenerators

[ English | Español ]

If governments won’t solve the climate, hunger, health, and democracy crisis, then the people will…  Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.
Dr. Vandana Shiva, speaking at the founding meeting of Regeneration International,
La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica, June 8, 2015

Degenerate—(verb) to decline from a noble to a lower state of development; to become worse physically and morally; (noun) a person of low moral standards; having become less than one’s kind…”.  – New Webster’s Dictionary, 1997 Edition

Welcome to Degeneration Nation.

After decades of self-destructive business-as-usual—empire-building, waging wars for fossil fuels, selling out government to the highest bidder, lacing the environment and the global food supply with GMOs, pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, toxic sweeteners, artery-clogging fats, and synthetic chemicals,  attacking the organic and natural health movement, brainwashing the body politic, destroying soils, forests, wetlands, and biodiversity, and discharging greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere and the oceans like there’s no tomorrow—we’ve reached a new low, physically and morally.

Distracted by know-nothing media conglomerates and betrayed by cowardly politicians and avaricious corporations, homo sapiens are facing, and unfortunately in many cases still denying, the most serious existential threat in our 200,000 year evolution—catastrophic climate change, compounded by deteriorating public health and the dictatorial rise of political elites and multinational corporations such as Monsanto.

Unless we move decisively as a global community to transform our degenerative food, farming and energy systems, we are doomed.

To reverse global warming and restabilize the climate, we will need not only to slash CO2 emissions by 90 percent or more, taking down King Coal and Big Oil and converting to renewable sources of energy, but we must also simultaneously remove or draw down 100-150 ppm of the excess (400 ppm) CO2 and greenhouse gases that are already overheating our supersaturated atmosphere. How do we accomplish the latter? Through regenerative agriculture and land use.

Fortunately, this is possible because more and more consumers are connecting the dots between what’s on their dinner plates and what’s happening to Planet Earth. They, along with environmentalists, animal rights, food justice, climate and health activists, have created a global grassroots movement aimed at dismantling our destructive, degenerative industrial food and farming system. And despite Big Food’s desperate attempts to maintain the status quo, this powerful movement is escalating the war on degeneration.

Under siege, Big Food fights back

On the food, natural health and anti-GMO fronts, our battles for a new regenerative (non-GMO, non-chemical, non-factory farm, non-fossil fuel) food, farming and land use system are educating and energizing millions of people. The profits of the big junk food, chemical, and GMO corporations are falling, while demand for organic and climate-friendly grass fed foods continues to skyrocket.

In the last quarter Monsanto’s profits fell by 34 percent, while the company’s highly publicized attempt to buy out agri-toxics giant Syngenta fell flat, in no small part due to the “worst corporation in the world” reputation that the global Millions Against Monsanto Movement has managed to hang around Monsanto’s neck.

In the U.S., the growing power of the anti-GMO movement has forced the passage of a game-changing mandatory GMO labeling law in Vermont. The Vermont law will go into effect July 1, 2016, forcing national brands to either remove GMOs from their products or label them. The Vermont law will also make it illegal to label GMO-tainted foods as “natural.” Many national brands have already begun removing bogus “natural” or “all natural” claims from their packaging.

Consumer pressure on Whole Foods Market (WFM) has likewise forced the organic and natural products giant to declare that all 40,000 foods, including meat and take-out, in WFM stores will have to be labeled as GMO or GMO-free by 2018.  Other chains, such as the rapidly growing Natural Grocer, have already gone GMO-free.

While a number of major food brands and chains, such as Hershey’s and Chipotle’s, have already begun removing GMOs from their products, the impending Vermont law has created panic among the Biotech Bullies, with Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association attempting to ram through the passage of the draconian, highly unpopular DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act (H.R. 1599) in Congress, even though 90 percent of Americans want GMO foods labeled.

The DARK Act will nullify the Vermont GMO labeling law and take away the long-established constitutional right of states to label foods and regulate food safety. But such a blatant attack on states’ and consumer rights will also likely create a major backlash. Even the mass media has warned that the forced passage of the DARK Act, either through Congressional vote, or more likely, a back-room-deal rider inserted into a Federal Appropriations bill, will likely enrage health- and environmentally conscious consumers. As Fortune magazine reports, Big Food may indeed be able to ram through the unpopular Dark Act, but this outrageous maneuver will likely lead to “a classic case of winning the battle and losing the war.”

The global grassroots swarm: next steps

Now that we’ve stung Monsanto and Food Inc. (corporate agribusiness) with thousands of campaigns, boycotts, protests, litigation and legislative efforts, what are our next steps in the great 2015 Food Fight?

  1. Defeat the DARK Act in the U.S. Every major anti-GMO and alternative food and farming network in the U.S. is now mobilizing against the DARK Act, which has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives 275-150. We must mobilize, as never before, to stop this outrageous bill in the Senate. But we must also be prepared for dirty tricks, a secret rider inserted into one or more Congressional Appropriations Bills that will not require an open debate or vote in the Senate. And if, despite all our efforts, the DARK Act becomes law, we must be prepared to carry out our own skull-and-crossbones labeling by aggressively testing all of the major (non-organic) U.S. food brands, including meat and animal products, and by exposing the GMOs, pesticide residues, antibiotics, hormones and growth promoters that make these degenerate foods unfit for human consumption. Following our exposure of Food Inc.’s dirty little secrets, we must then launch an ongoing boycott to drive these foods off the market.
  2. Expand and deepen our message. We need to change our campaign message from “Boycott and Ban GMOs” to “Boycott and Ban GMOs, as well as the toxic chemicals, animal drugs and factory farms that are an integral part of the industrial/GMO food and farming system.” GMOs in processed foods are a major threat to our health and the environment, but they are only part of the problem of our degenerate food system. Polls consistently show that U.S. consumers are equally alarmed by the toxic pesticides, antibiotics and synthetic hormones in non-organic foods. We need to emphasize that GMOs are pesticide delivery systems, and that GMOs are not only found in most processed foods and beverages, but they are also found in nearly all non-organic, non-grass fed meat and animal products. Every bite of factory-farmed meat, dairy or eggs, every sip of factory-farmed milk, not only contains GMOs, but also the toxic pesticides, antibiotics and animal drugs that are slowly but surely destroying public health. We also need to point out that every time you pull up to the gas pump, you are filling up your tank with not only greenhouse gas-emitting gasoline, but Monsanto’s chemical-intensive, soil destroying GMO corn ethanol as well.
  3. Frame the overall fight as degenerative food, farming and land use, versus regenerative agriculture and land use. Even before GMOs hit the market in 1994, in the form of Monsanto’s Bovine Growth Hormone, America’s industrial food and farming system was terrible for human health, the for the environment, farm animals and rural communities. If we somehow managed to get rid of all GMOs tomorrow, our (non-organic) food system would still be degenerating our health, biodiversity, water quality, and most importantly, our climate. The industrial food and farming system, with its destructive deforestation and land use, is the number one cause of global warming and climate disruption. But at the same time as we expose the hazards of industrial food and farming we must spread the good news that regenerative agriculture is not only better for our health, but that it can fix the climate crisis as well, by sequestering in the soil several hundred billion tons of excess atmospheric carbon over the next two decades. We need to Cook Organic, not the Planet. This requires a new message, and a broader coalition beyond simply “GMO-free.”
  4. Get ready to go to war. Given how desperate Monsanto and Big Ag have become, we must prepare for any eventuality. The reason Big Food and Big Biotech are escalating the war against consumer choice and food safety is because a critical mass of the public no longer believes the lies. Monsanto and Big Food understand full well that they are losing the battle for the hearts and minds and consumer dollars of the majority, not only in the U.S. but globally. That’s why they are pushing the DARK Act and negotiating secret international trade deals, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, deals that would take away consumer rights to label and ban GMOs, pesticides, antibiotics and other dangerous animal drugs. This is no longer simply a food fight, but a war. We need to step up our public education, grassroots mobilization and most importantly, our marketplace pressure and boycotts.
  5. Link together the food, farm, forest, climate and economic justice movements. The climate crisis, even though many people don’t understand this yet, is the most important issue that humans have ever faced. The food and farm movement needs to move beyond single-issue campaigning to challenge the entire system of industrial agriculture, junk food, ethanol production and factory farming. We need to educate people to understand that industrial food and farming, GMOs, destructive deforestation and land use, and mindless consumerism are the major causes of global warming and climate destabilization. There will be no GMO-free, or organic food on a burnt planet. At the same time the climate movement must move beyond its 50-percent solution (reducing and eliminating fossil fuel emissions), to the 100-percent solution of zero emissions plus maximum carbon sequestration in the soils and forests through regenerative organic agriculture, planned rotational grazing reforestation, and land use.

The hour is late, but we, the global grassroots, still have time to mobilize and act, to regenerate the system before it further degenerates us.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico affiliate, Via Organica