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Dr. Richard Teague: Regenerative Organic Practices “Clean Up the Act of Agriculture”

While earning his undergraduate degree, Dr. Richard Teague knew that the grassland and cropping management being taught wasn’t truly sustainable.

“Agricultural land is generally being managed in a manner that is degrading the land resource. In particular, the soil function and ecosystem biodiversity that we need working properly to provide the ecosystem services that we depend on—we have to look at it in a different way,” he tells AFN.

Now a grazing systems ecologist and professor at Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Teague grew up in Zimbabwe. His father had an ecological education, so Teague has always approached agricultural research through this lens. After obtaining a PhD in the Department of Botany and Microbiology at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, he was recruited to the United States in 1991. Then, looking to speak to farmers who had shown the highest soil carbon levels while doing well in their businesses, he contacted the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Texas.

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The New Plan to Remove a Trillion Tons of Carbon Dioxide from the Atmosphere: Bury It

Last month, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere surpassed 415 parts per million, the highest in human history. Environmental experts say the world is increasingly on a path toward a climate crisis.

The most prominent efforts to prevent that crisis involve reducing carbon emissions. But another idea is also starting to gain traction — sucking all that carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it underground.

It sounds like an idea plucked from science fiction, but the reality is that trees and plants already do it, breathing carbon dioxide and then depositing it via roots and decay into the soil. That’s why consumers and companies often “offset” their carbon emissions by planting carbon-sucking trees elsewhere in the world.

But an upstart company, ­Boston-based Indigo AG, now wants to transform farming practices so that agriculture becomes quite the opposite of what it is today — a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

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How Regenerative Land and Livestock Management Practices Can Sequester Carbon

For people who want to help address climate change through their daily choices, many media headlines point to avoiding meat as the biggest way to reduce their impact. With livestock as one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, it might seem that if we only eliminated animals in food production — cows, in particular — we’d save the planet. Meatless meat is exploding in popularity — even Burger King and White Castle have started offering meatless burgers on their menus. Still, despite good intentions, a blanket censure against cattle leaves out a big part of the story: humans. How animals are raised and managed by humans makes the difference in beef’s climate impact.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, a 2017 life cycle assessment (LCA) conducted with one of EPIC Provisions’ beef suppliers, White Oak Pastures, gives evidence that regeneratively managed cows actually can help sequester carbon in the soil.

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Cambio climático: el mapa que muestra las ocultas conexiones subterráneas de los árboles (y qué dice de la alerta que enfrenta el planeta)

“Un bosque es mucho más que los árboles. Hay todo un mundo bajo nuestros pies, un mundo oculto que no vemos pero cuya importancia es capital para la salud de los bosques y su supervivencia”.

El científico español Sergio de Miguel, profesor de la Universidad de Lleida, estudia las complejas relaciones entre las raíces de los árboles y vastas redes de microorganismos con las que viven en simbiosis.

“Es como una relación de amistad en la que uno aporta algo y el otro aporta algo en beneficio de los dos”, le dice a BBC Mundo el coautor de un estudio pionero sobre el tema publicado en la revista Nature.

El estudio presenta “el primer mapa a escala global de la distribución de los diferentes tipos de simbiosis que existen en los bosques del mundo”.

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One Solution to Climate Change No One Is Talking About

It was a nightmarish Iowa blizzard in 1998 that made Seth Watkins rethink the way he farmed.

Before then, he’d operated his family business—he raises livestock alongside hay and corn crops for feed—pretty much as his parents had, utilizing practices like monocropping and unseasonal calving cycles, methods designed to cheat nature. The blizzard, which imperiled the lives of many newly born calves that year, made him realize there must be a better way to steward the land and the animals on it — methods more attuned to the natural scheme of things.

Photo credit: Pexels

In the 20 years since, Watkins has shepherded in a number of major changes—such as prairie strips, cover crops and rotational grazing—that prevent soil erosion, curb toxic nitrate and phosphorus runoff into nearby waterways, stimulate the biodiversity of the local ecosystems, and improve soil moisture and nutrient content, all the while increasing profits, he said.

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Big Food Turning to Regenerative Agriculture to Meet Sustainability Goals

Food manufacturers take commodities harvested on millions of acres around the world and put them into the products they sell. Now, a growing number of companies are looking to give back to the land through regenerative agriculture in an effort to meet consumer demand for more environmentally friendly practices. 

General Mills recently partnered with farmers and suppliers to implement these sustainable practices on 1 million acres of soil for oats, wheat, corn, dairy feed and sugar beets by 2030. 

The announcement comes as shoppers care about sustainability now more than ever, according to a survey from Nielsen. Nearly half of U.S. consumers are likely to change what they buy depending on the level of the brand’s commitment to the environment. The growth is unlikely to abate anytime soon, with the data analytics firm predicting people will spend up to $150 billion on sustainable products by 2021.

“It’s a big deal for food companies because we make food that relies on agriculture. 

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Una superficie como un campo de fútbol se erosiona cada cinco segundos

Está ahí, justo bajo los pies, pero subyacente en el sentido amplio de la palabra. Bajo los cimientos de las casas, los cines y las fábricas, sustentando las carreteras que llevan a las playas, nutriendo a los alimentos exquisitos, acunando los lagos y ríos.., pero la función de este recurso, no renovable, va más allá. “Los niños que han tenido la dicha de jugar con el suelo saben un poco lo que es, pero los de la ciudad no tanto. Y es nuestro aliado silencioso, la mayoría de la comida se produce ahí, y también es un almacén natural de carbono, asume más que la vegetación terrestre y la atmósfera juntas, y eso es importante contra el calentamiento global. Además de aguardar microorganismos que proporcionan biodiversidad”, resume con brevedad Ronald Vargas, secretario de la Alianza Mundial por el Suelo, consciente de que este recurso natural no capta tanta atención como el agua en el mundo.

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From Despair to Repair

I belong to an online climate discussion group that today asked three questions: what is the state of the movement, do we need climate change or system change, and do we need a meta-movement? Keying off the insights from the Earth Repair Conference, I wrote the following – and have added a post-script to include a week of research on the state of the movement for Earth Repair:

CLIMATE MOVEMENT: STATE OF PLAY

Last weekend I attended the Global Earth Repair conference and this workshop (long) where a new context clicked for me, though I’ve had all the pieces collected over all these years of low to the ground innovations.

The cumulative impact of the event revealed this: the Climate Movement is missing a crucial, essential element. It offers resistance but not repair. It is clear about the against, but largely mum on an equal scale restoration project. The anti-war movement allied with the Peace Movement had moral and spiritual power.

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The Next Regeneration

Didi Barrett, a New York state assemblymember, has visited Stone House Grain, a farm in the Hudson Valley, enough times to be a seasoned tour guide. That’s what it felt like, at least, as we drove in a Jeep down a narrow road, through fields blanketed by cover crops and perennial pastures spread out like a gold-and-brown checkerboard. It was mid-March, a time of dormancy for most plants in the region. Poplar trees, bare of any leaves, lined either side of the road. But the farm was already teeming with life.

From behind the wheel, Ben Dobson, the farm manager, explained why his farm was unseasonably busy. “The basic premise of what people are now calling ‘carbon farming’ is that the earth’s surfaces were made to photosynthesize,” he said, eyeing his fields with a relaxed confidence.

It’s all part of a natural cycle: On warm days, Dobson’s crops pull carbon dioxide from the sky and release it into the soil where it nourishes developing plants.

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Ohio Soil Health Pioneer’s Farm is Classroom for Upcoming Regenerative Agriculture School

CARROLL, Ohio (May 15, 2019) – He’s been described as the “Obi-Wan Kenobi” of soil health because of his masterful, Jedi-like ability to regenerate the soil. 

His Carroll, Ohio farm now draws hundreds of researchers, farmers and conservationists from across the globe to gain insights into the principles and practices that have enabled him to restore the health and function of his soil and to invigorate his farming business.

Today, the Soil Health Academy announced that Brandt Farms will host a soil health and regenerative agriculture school, June 4-6, so other farmers can see and learn, first-hand, how 74-year-old David Brandt has transformed his soil and improved his farm’s profitability.

As more farmers struggle to stay afloat in today’s turbulent agricultural economy, Brandt said he hopes to share his successful regenerative farming model so others can learn how to improve the profitability of their own farming operations. 

“Hosting an SHA school on the farm is my way of introducing other farmers to the wide-range of regenerative agriculture benefits, including improved water infiltration, reduced use of manufactured fertilizers and pesticides and improved soil health.” Brandt said. “They’ll see what can happen to their own soil through the use of no-till, cover crops and continuous cropping rotations.”

In addition to Brandt, attendees of the three-day, hands-on school will learn from world-renowned regenerative agriculture experts Ray Archuleta, Gabe Brown, Allen Williams, Ph.D., as well as other technical consultants.

While many traditional agriculture researchers and farmers were initially skeptical of regenerative agriculture’s potential, Brandt’s success has helped usher in a new era in agriculture that focuses on farming in nature’s image—practically and profitably.

“Conventional farming wisdom says it’s impossible to achieve the kind of improvements I’ve made in soil organic matter, soil health and soil function,” he said. “But the results are real and they speak for themselves.”

Brandt describes his soil-health focused approach as “part innovation, part perspiration and part determination” and admits he’s had his share of set-backs and challenges.

“My journey has come through many trials and some failures but mainly through hands-on learning to see what can really be done to be a better steward of the land,” Brandt said. “Now I simply want to share my experience and help other farmers become even more successful in their regenerative agriculture journeys.” 

To learn more about the Soil Health Academy School at Brandt Farms, visit www.soilhealthacademy.org or call 256/996-3142.

Reposted with permission from Soil Health Academy