Posts

How Weeds Help Fight Climate Change

More than 60 years ago, when he was a child, farmer Peter Andrews saw his first dust storm. He still remembers it. “The noise was horrendous,” he says. “We hid in the house waiting for it to pass. The whole sky was dark. And the damage we saw the next day was even more terrible.”

The wind had ripped many of the trees on his family’s property completely bare. Some of their horses and cattle asphyxiated, unable to breath in the dust.

That early experience has led him to a particular calling: trying to regenerate Australia’s land, since dust storms occur in hot, arid regions where there is little vegetation to anchor the soil.

“It really led me… to thinking about how to find solutions for keeping the land in balance,” Andrews says. “Over many decades I learned from observation how to keep the land fertile, how every landscape has its own natural system. 

KEEP READING ON BBC NEWS

New Project in Carbon Farming Launched in India

A new project will help farmers increase their income as well as store carbon in their soil. Starting with 20 farmers in two districts of Maharashtra state in India, the carbon farming project will compensate farmers for increases in soil organic carbon. These farmers follow no-till practices in growing rice and other cover crops.

The project is an initiative of Shekar Bhadsavale, a California-educated progressive farmer from Neral, and Emmanuel D’Silva, an agriculture and environment scientist from Mumbai who previously worked at the World Bank.

Bhadsavale has pioneered Saguna Rice Technique (SRT), a form of zero-till conservation agriculture, which has been accepted by over 1,000 farmers in several Indian states. D’Silva had initiated carbon credit programs through tree plantations in 44 tribal villages a decade earlier.

“The farmers we selected are mostly smallholder farmers with less than a hectare. In Karjat [area], they are mostly tribals growing rice followed by vegetables,” explains Bhadsavale who grows rice, string beans, and other cover crops.

“SRT will not only increase farm yields and income, but also improve the health of soils, thereby, storing more carbon in the process,” said Bhadsavale.

“Increasing soil organic carbon through conservation agriculture practices like SRT will benefit everyone on the planet,” observes D’Silva, the agriculture and environment scientist.

“A one-percent increase in soil organic carbon in one acre is equivalent to storing 18 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide underneath our ground. Agriculture can provide a better solution to the climate crisis than some other sectors, if done right,” notes D’Silva.

Looking back on his decade-long experiences in growing multiple types of rice, a variety of legumes, and other crops, Bhadsavale believes that a one percent increase in soil organic carbon can easily be achieved over three years, if farmers practice sustainable farming methods like SRT. He has done a lot to spread the message of SRT in India, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Bhadsavale and D’Silva are not the only ones confident of agriculture providing solutions to climate change. Cornelia Rumpel and other soil scientists at CNRS Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences in France believe that increasing the carbon content of the world’s soils by just a few parts per thousand (0.4 percent) each year would remove around 3-4 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere and also boost soil health. They cite studies from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, which show increasing soil carbon by 0.4 percent a year can enhance crop yields by 1.3 percent.

Rumpel chairs the scientific and technical committee of the 4 for 1000 initiative launched by France in 2015. The goal of the initiative is to “demonstrate that agriculture, and in particular agricultural soils, can play a crucial role where food security and climate change are concerned.”

If the carbon level in the top 30-40 cm of soils were increased by 0.4 percent, the annual increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be stopped, concludes the website of the 4 for 1000 initiative.

The carbon farming pilot in Maharashtra will make a small contribution to the global goal of improving 1.5 million km2 of degraded and deforested land by 2020. If the 20 farmers participating in the pilot practice conservation agriculture on all of their land—rather than just half an acre—they should be able to store 2,000 tons of CO2 in their soil over three years, says D’Silva.

Under the project, farmers would be compensated for increases in soil carbon by contributions from individuals, private companies, and NGOs concerned about climate change.

One of the contributors is Prabhakar Tamboli, a professor of Agriculture at the University of Maryland. “This is the first baby step to find a solution to mitigate the adverse impact of climate change,” he observes. “In addition, the project will introduce environmentally sound agronomic practices in the fields of farmers and help increase their incomes.”

Initially, the ‘carbon check’ to farmers is expected to be about Rs 9,000 (US$128) over three years based on half-acre experiments. But this could change if the project is expanded after the pilot phase.

The Saguna Rural Foundation, headed by Bhadsavale, will provide technical support to farmers, collect soil samples, and distribute the carbon checks at year’s end based on increases in soil carbon. The verification and validation of the soil increases would be conducted independently by Zenith Energy Climate Foundation, Hyderabad.

The Director of the foundation, Mohan Reddy, believes that “verification and validation by a third party (such as us) would bring credibility to the process of measurement of the carbon stored in the soil and quantification of CO2 reduction.”

Reddy has participated in a number of projects requiring measurement of greenhouse gases under terms of the Kyoto Protocol, but admits that establishing baselines and measuring carbon storage in agriculture, a new activity, could be a challenge.

The farmers involved in carbon farming, however, are up to the challenge. Parshuram Agivale, a pioneer farmer who has been practicing no-till rice cultivation for six years, says SRT has changed his life. “My workload has decreased, agriculture production has increased, and income has gone up. I have been able to send my daughter to a nursing school and she is now a nurse.”

“Even though I am uneducated, I am now happy to share my experience and educate other farmers on the merits of zero till and SRT.”

Sitting under a banyan tree on his 2-acre farm, Agilve, along with other farmers participating in the project, shared ideas and excitement on being among the first to take up carbon farming. They recognized they were making a contribution not only for their children but also for the planet by storing carbon in their soils.

Reposted with permission from Food Tank

Study: White Oak Pastures Beef Reduces Atmospheric Carbon

BLUFFTON, Ga., May 1, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Will Harris is many things to many people. To chefs and foodies, he is a legendary farmer producing some of the world’s best pasture-raised meats infused with the terroir of south Georgia. To athletes, body-hackers, and health-conscious consumers, he is the owner of White Oak Pastures, which ships humanely-raised, non-GMO, grassfed proteins to their doorsteps. To the communities surrounding Bluffton, Georgia, he is one of the last good ole’ boys and the largest private employer in the county. To his colleagues in agriculture, he’s a renegade and an inspiration. But Will Harris’ legacy might turn out to be something else entirely. He may be remembered as the cattleman who figured out how to enlist cows in future generations’ struggle to reverse climate change.

Industrial-Sized Cow Farts

Almost everyone these days has been educated that carbon emissions from industrialized beef production are a startlingly large contributor to man-made climate change.

KEEP READING ON PR NEWSWIRE

Climate Change Being Fuelled by Soil Damage – Report

Climate change can’t be halted if we carry on degrading the soil, a report will say.

There’s three times more carbon in the soil than in the atmosphere – but that carbon’s being released by deforestation and poor farming.

This is fuelling climate change – and compromising our attempts to feed a growing world population, the authors will say.

Problems include soils being eroded, compacted by machinery, built over, or harmed by over-watering.

Hurting the soil affects the climate in two ways: it compromises the growth of plants taking in carbon from the atmosphere, and it releases soil carbon previously stored by worms taking leaf matter underground.

The warning will come from the awkwardly-named IPBES – the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – a panel studying the benefits of nature to humans.

The body, which is meeting this week, aims to get all the world’s governments singing from the same sheet about the need to protect natural systems.

KEEP READING ON BBC NEWS

How Will We Produce Food in the New Era of Climate Extremes? The Solution Lies in The Soil

At the recent Nebraska Farmers Union Convention Dr. Martha Shulski, our State Climatologist who co-authored the 4th National Climate Assessment, eerily foretold to a large group of farmers that we are moving into a new era of weather extremes. Dr. Shulski also noted it was likely that as farmers, we would need to consider a change in our farming practices due to extreme climatic events if we expected to maintain sustainable businesses. Only 3 months later the 2019 Bomb Cyclone hit the midwest, and a perfect storm of conditions led to a series of catastrophic flooding events that cost our farmers millions of dollars. Many of these costs took years of sweat investment and will never be recovered.

As the water recedes, at least for now, Nebraskans face an unknown climatic future. While the future may be uncertain, there is no doubt the recent events have sent a ripple across the Great Plains.

KEEP READING ON THE BIG GARDEN

Soil Health Champion Gabe Brown Featured on Commemorative Wheaties Box

BISMARCK, ND (April 15, 2019) – Since 1956, when U.S. Olympic track and field star Bob Richards first graced its cover, Wheaties cereal boxes have featured athletic champions who have overcome challenges in pursuit of their personal best. General Mills, the makers of Wheaties, recently featured another type of champion on a specially prepared box cover: soil health champion Gabe Brown.

A pioneering, regenerative agriculture farmer from Bismarck, North Dakota, Brown recently received the commemorative box from the General Mills Sustainability Team. While the company has no current plans to put the mock-up into mass production or distribution, the cover is a special tribute to Brown’s work as a regenerative agricultural advocate and educator. It is also emblematic of the food giant’s renewed commitment to expand the use of soil health-improving practices among General Mills’ cereal grain growers.

“The box was presented as a ‘thank you’ to me and the Soil Health Academy by the General Mills Sustainability Team for our work in providing education and technical support to their growers as part of a multi-year, regenerative agriculture project,” Brown said.

“Even as a novelty item, seeing your picture on the cover of an iconic cereal box is a humbling experience and the gesture was very much appreciated,” he said. “Truthfully, I think every farmer making the transition from industrial to regenerative agriculture is a champion.”

Brown knows how important that transition is in transforming farming operations. His recently released book, Dirt to Soil, chronicles his personal journey from industrial agriculture to soil health-focused regenerative agriculture.

“The story of my farm is how I took a severely degraded, low-profit operation that had been managed using the industrial production model and regenerated it into a healthy, profitable one,” Brown said. “All of us—whether farmer, rancher or home gardener—have the ability to harness the awesome power of nature to produce nutrient-dense food. We can do this in a way that will both regenerate our resources

and ensure that our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to enjoy good health,” he said.

In addition to transforming his own farm and ranch operation, Brown’s remarkable experience has yielded another benefit: a new calling.

“One of my goals in life is to help other farmers make the same transition,” Brown said. “I hope the book and all of our work through the Soil Health Academy will help many more farmers, and even consumers, discover the hope in healthy soil.”

Reposted with permission from Soil Health Academy

To Fix the Climate, We Have to Fix Our Soil

“One of our most important solutions to the global challenge posed by climate change lies right under our feet.” That’s according to Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, a soil biochemist at the University of Merced, and she’s talking about soil, which isn’t acknowledged as a key factor in the fight against climate change.

When it’s healthy, soil is incredibly effective at storing carbon, Berhe said on the stage at TED in Vancouver. Soil stores around 3,000 billion metric tons of carbon, which is double the amount stored in vegetation and in the atmosphere, combined. The ability of natural ecosystems like soil to capture and sequester carbon is essentially bailing us out of experiencing the effects of excessive amounts of CO2 that human activities produce. Around half of the 9.4 billion metric tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere every year are captured in soil, plants, and the ocean, and soil is doing the bulk of that heavy lifting.

KEEP READING ON FAST COMPANY

Andrea Asch: Healthy Soils, Healthy Farms

The snow in Vermont is slowly melting and the woods and fields are springing to life with shoots of new growth. The soil is also re-awakening and is rich with an abundance of organisms and nutrients. Vermont relies on its soil for its most important economic driver – agriculture, and dairy farms. To keep that engine strong, many dairy farmers have turned to regenerative agriculture. More than just a set of practices, regenerative agriculture broadly supports many important environmental benefits.

Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming that develops the soil as a habitat for organisms, making the soil robust and resilient for the production of healthy crops that ultimately support good animal nutrition and contribute to quality milk.

The foundation of regenerative agriculture is a set of practices based on concepts that improve soil health:

KEEP READING ON VTDIGGER

Will Soil Save Us? Carbon Sequestration Through Agriculture

When I taught kindergarten many years ago, I remember when 6-year old Flo fixed her china-blue eyes on me one morning and said she had just figured something out: “Everything in the world is alive,” she declared, “but in its own way.”

Flo’s words come to mind this spring as I get my hands into the earth. I am always awestruck in nature, but these days there’s also an undercurrent of dull grief and panic about climate change. All life, present in all of its variation and complexity, is cherished more than ever before. Every bee and butterfly that enters my garden will get the best seat at the table.

I’m also mindful of my grandfather, a Dutch immigrant who acquired land in southwestern Minnesota in the late 1800s and “broke the prairie” with a sharpened plow and a team of good horses.

KEEP READING ON VASHON-MAURY ISLAND BEACHCOMBER

Farmers Are Excited about Soil Health. That’s Good News for All of Us

“When we think about the challenges in agriculture, carbon—and how to sequester it—is near the top.” So said Roger Johnson, the president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), in opening the grassroots organization’s 2019 annual convention in March. Storing carbon in farm soils is an important climate change solution, but building the health of those soils is also critical for ensuring clean water for communities and helping farmers be productive while coping with the consequences of a climate that is already changing. And throughout the NFU’s three-day gathering, the phrase “soil health” and talk about strategies to achieve it seemed to be on everyone’s tongue.

Though it is hard to quantify, surveys suggest that many US farmers are already taking steps to build soil health and store carbon in their soils.

KEEP READING ON UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS