by Clark Driftmier
Readers may have seen an article in last Sunday’s New York Times entitled “Soil Power! The Dirty Way to a Green Planet.” (1) In the article, contributing writer Jacques Leslie reports on new findings in the field of Regenerative Agriculture, specifically regarding the ways in which regenerative agricultural practices can sequester carbon in the soil.
We all know that the buildup of carbon in the atmosphere is a major contributor to climate change. There are increasingly active studies on methods we can employ to sequester carbon to mitigate the effects of climate change. As Mr. Leslie reports, Soils comprise one of the Earth’s five major storage pools for carbon, the others being: Air, Oceans, Forests and Fossil Fuel reserves. In this context, Soils are one of the most promising areas for carbon sequestration, and Regenerative Agriculture is one of the best ways to store carbon in the soil over the long term.
According to research done by the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at Ohio State University under the direction of Rattan Lal (2), Soils can capture and store anywhere from 0.9 to 2.6 gigatons of carbon per year, representing up to 25% of all carbon emissions. As Mr. Lal described in the NYT article, “Putting the carbon back in the soil is not only mitigating climate change, but also improving human health, productivity, food security, nutrition security, water quality, air quality – everything.” (3)
There is other encouraging news – Organic agriculture is one of the best farming systems for capturing and storing carbon in the Soil. A recent study, directed by The National Soil Project at Northeastern University in collaboration with the Organic Center, demonstrates that Organic ag. systems have superior ability to sequester carbon. (4) The study shows that the components of carbon-storing humic substances – fulvic acid and humic acid — were consistently higher in organic than in conventional soils.
The research found that, on average, soils from organic farms had:
- 13 percent higher soil organic matter
- 150 percent more fulvic acid
- 44 percent more humic acid
- 26 percent greater potential for long-term carbon storage
Dr. Tracy Misiewicz, Associate Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center, discusses how this research helps to establish the connection between the carbon-storing properties of organic soil and the practices employed by organic farmers. According to Dr. Masiewicz, “A number of studies have shown that practices commonly used in organic farming increase soil organic matter and soil health. Some of these practices include the use of manure and legume cover crops, extended crop rotations, fallowing and rotational grazing. These same practices are likely also involved in increasing the important humic substances in soil.” (5)
Recapping all of the above, here’s what we know:
1. Climate change is a threat to our future.
2. Carbon sequestration in the Soil is key to mitigating climate change.
3. Regenerative agriculture helps to sequester carbon in the Soil.
4. Organic agriculture and organic practices are particularly effective in carbon sequestration and building long-term soil health.
The challenge of climate change is creating a catalyst for innovative solutions. Regenerative agriculture and organic practices show significant promise in the effort to build a more stable and sustainable future. That’s something we can all Dig.
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PS - Readers are encouraged to watch the Organic Center’s informative YouTube video explaining the research findings and the carbon-storing benefits of organic agriculture: