Carbon farming—A suite of agricultural practices that sequester carbon in the soil. (The Carbon Farming Solution, Eric Toensmeier)
Carbon sequestration—Capture of atmospheric carbon, (carbon dioxide, CO2) and its long-term storage in soil. Carbon dioxide is naturally captured from the atmosphere through biological, chemical, and physical processes. (Wikipedia.org, “Carbon Sequestration”)
Climate change mitigation—Actions to limit the magnitude of climate change or to limit the rate of changes occurring because of climate change. Improves our resilience to climate change impacts.
Compost—Organic matter used as fertilizer and soil amendment.
Conventional agriculture—Agricultural practices developed in the mid- and late twentieth century. Uses synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Highly mechanized, usually large scale and monoculture.
Cover crops—Crops planted after or alongside a crop to protect and regenerate the soil. May also provide an additional yield.
Dirt—Unclean matter, especially when in contact with a person's clothes, skin or possessions when they are said to become dirty. (Wikipedia.org, “Dirt”)
Managed intensive rotational grazing (MIRG), rotational grazing, holistic land management, holistic planned grazing, cell grazing, mob grazing—Systems of forage in which ruminant and nonruminant herds or flocks are regularly and systematically moved to fresh rested areas with the intent to maximize the quality and quantity of forage growth. (Wikipedia.org, “Rotational Grazing”)
Organic agriculture—An alternate agriculture system to conventional agriculture. Relies on fertilizers derived from organic materials. Prohibits the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Food grown using organic methods is legally defined in the U.S. and internationally. Does not necessarily use regenerative agricultural practices.
Permaculture—System of agricultural and design principles centered on simulating or directly using the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems. (Wikipedia.org, “Permaculture”)
Regenerative agriculture—Farming practices designed to build soil health and regenerate unhealthy soils or dirt. (Wikipedia.org, “Regenerative Agriculture”)
Soil—A mixture of minerals, organic matter, gases, liquids, and countless organisms that together support life on Earth. Soil is a natural body called the pedosphere, which has four important functions: it is a medium for plant growth; it is a means of water storage, supply and purification; it is a modifier of Earth's atmosphere; it is a habitat for organisms; all of which, in turn, modify the soil. (Wikipedia.org, “Soil”)
Books, Videos, Published Articles
Hayes & Hayes. Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment. New York: WW Norton & Company, Inc., 2015.
Analyzes the historical relationship between cows and humans, how this relationship is leading to environmental destruction, and how we can build a better future for both species.
Lowenfels & Lewis. Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web. Portland: Timber Press, 2010.
Details the types, functions, and importance of multifarious soil microbes. Clearly written and scientifically thorough, this volume offers essential facts on how soil life forms work with each other and with plants and fungi to form the foundation of our biosphere.
Newell & Goldney. “A Presentation of the Practice, Discipline and Philosophy of Landsmanship: Landsmanship Is Applied Ecology.” Australia, 2009. www.nsfarming.com/Media/2010-NEWELL_GOLDNEY-DISCIPLINE_OF_LANDSMANSHIP2.pdf.
Outdated land-use values and practices have caused widespread desertification across Australia. A new paradigm and set of practices for land management can restore these ranchlands, farmlands, and gardens to a state of vigor, fertility, and beauty while at the same time removing large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Ohlson. The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet. New York: Rodale, 2014.
The inspiration for the Soils Committee. Interesting and clear, Ohlson notes that scientists and farmers are discovering how to build and maintain healthy soil—soil that produces higher, more nutritious yields, holds up to a third more water, creates drought resistant gardens and crops, reduces or eliminates erosion and downstream runoff pollution, resists bug infestation and other plant blight, requires no costly synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, or herbicides; and increases farmers’ and ranchers’ profits. Healthy, “living” soil can sequester more than 50 tons of carbon per acre, pulling slightly more than 150 tons of carbon dioxide from the air, annualy. Cultivating healthy soil on just 11% of the world’s fallow croplands, could lessen or even reverse anthropogenic climate change.
White. Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey through Carbon Country. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014.
Quick solutions to thorny challenges confronting humanity. What can we do about climate change, global hunger, water scarcity, environmental stress, and economic instability? Restore living soils. Revive riparian habitats. Eat meat from intensively grazed animals.
Pollan. “The Great Challenge: Farming, Food and Climate Change.” Keynote speech for the New York Times Food for Tomorrow Conference. YouTube video, 4-minutes. 2014. www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSjHN8zefak.
Short synopsis on how restoring living soils to ranches, farms, and gardens could lessen or eliminate climate change. Offered by journalist, activist, Berkeley journalism professor, and best-selling author Michael Pollan.
Catholic Church. Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality: On Care for Our Common Home. 2015. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html.
In quoting Christian and Catholic voices, past and present, that call us to care for “our common home”; in detailing the harm caused by “rapidification” and a widespread “throw-away culture”; in making us “painfully aware” of what is happening to our world, Pope Francis dares us to face our personal suffering and thus “discover what each of us can do about it.”
Calls for a new partnership between science and religion to lessen human-caused climate change.
Lists the main greenhouse gases and their characteristics. Notes, for example, how long each gas remains in the atmosphere and its precise warming effect. Carbon dioxide is the most prevalent greenhouse gas, followed by methane and nitrous oxide.
Institute for Sustainable Agricultural Research. Carbon Sequestration: A Practical Approach. Las Cruces: New Mexico State University, 2011. http://web.nmsu.edu/~johnsoda/Carbon%20Sequestration%20with%20IP%20Agriculture.pdf.
NMSU soil scientists detail soil-building and farming techniques that stored 50 tons of carbon per acre in New Mexico’s arid climate and increased the soil’s water-holding capacity by 30 percent. A keystone study for claims that carbon sequestration could mitigate or reverse anthropogenic climate change.
Lal. "Soil Carbon Sequestration Impacts on Global Food Security and Climate Change." Science. June 11, 2004 (304):1623–1627. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/304/5677/1623.full.
Dr. Rattan Lal, Professor of Soil Science, Ohio State University, outlines soil carbon sequestration as a strategy to achieve food security and offset fossil fuel emissions through improvement in soil quality.
Lal. "Carbon Sequestration." Royal Society. 30 August 2007: 813–830. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2610111/pdf/rstb20072185.pdf
Dr. Rattan Lal, Professor of Soil Science, Ohio State University, discusses processes for soil carbon sequestration through biotic and abiotic technologies.
Lal. "Carbon Sequestration in Soil." CAB Review. 2008;3(30). http://tinread.usarb.md:8888/tinread/fulltext/lal/carbon_sequestration.pdf
Dr. Rattan Lal, Professor of Soil Science, Ohio State University, discusses principal strategies for soil organic carbon sequestration including restoration of degraded/desertified soils through conversion to perennial land use, and adoption of recommended management practices including no-till farming, manuring, agroforestry, and use of biochar as a soil amendment.
Lochhead. “A Sprinkle of Compost Helps Rangeland Lock Up Carbon.” San Francisco Chronicle, October 31, 2014. www.sfgate.com/science/article/A-sprinkle-of-compost-helps-rangeland-lock-up-5832244.php.
Six years after “a one-time dusting of compost” on grazelands in Marin County and the Sierra foothills, the amount of carbon moved to the soil by photosynthesis continues to climb, removing significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the air.
Malkin. “Investors Recruited to Restore Farmland in Latin America.” New York Times, December 7, 2014. www.nytimes.com/2014/12/08/world/americas/investors-recruited-to-restore-farmland-.html?_r=1.
Project led by conservation groups and funded by private investors aims to restore degraded farmland to an area roughly the size of Uruguay across Latin America. Seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions by improving soil and thus the productivity of farmland, thereby reducing the conversion of wildlands for agriculture. Nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions in Latin America arise from converting wildlands to farms and ranches.
Pace. “Hidden Partners: Mycorrhizal Fungi and Plants.” New York Botanical Gardens: C.V. Starr Virtual Herbarium. http://sciweb.nybg.org/science2/hcol/mycorrhizae.asp.html.
Symbiotic relationships form between fungi and plants, increasing plant vitality.
Reynolds, Nierenberg & Mastny. Innovations in Sustainable Agriculture: Supporting Climate-Friendly Food Production. Washington, DC: Worldwatch Institute, 2012. www.worldwatch.org/system/files/188%20climate%20and%20ag_FINAL.pdf.
Conventional agricultural methods produce between 25 and 30 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The global agricultural sector could potentially reduce and remove 80 to 88 percent of the carbon dioxide it now produces. Agriculture, when done sustainably, holds the key to mitigating climate change.
Six sustainable approaches to land and water use, in rural and urban areas, help farmers and other food producers mitigate or adapt to climate change—and often both.
Ruddiman. The Anthropogenic Greenhouse Era Began Thousands of Years Ago. Climatic Change. 61: 261–293. http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers/Ruddiman2003.pdf
Analysis of the hypothesis that alterations in atmospheric CO2 and CH4 began thousands of years ago and not at beginning of Industrial Revolution.
Savory Institute. Restoring the Climate Through Capture and Storage of Soil Carbon Through Holistic Planned Grazing, 2015. http://savory.global/assets/docs/evidence-papers/RestoringClimateWhitePaper2015.pdf
White paper summarizing the benefits of holistic grazing on grasslands: increased carbon sequestration potential, improved agricultural productivity, supply of high-quality protein, enhanced wildlife habitat and water resources, and jobs in rural communities.
Scherr, Sthapit & Mastny. Mitigating Climate Change through Food and Land Use. Washington, DC: Worldwatch Institute and Ecoagriculture Partners, 2009.www.worldwatch.org/system/files/179%20Land%20Use.pdf.
No plan to combat climate change is complete or can succeed without reducing greenhouse gas emissions from forestry, agriculture, and other land uses. Moreover, only land-based carbon sequestration offers the possibility of large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the air, through plant photosynthesis. Five major strategies for reducing and sequestering terrestrial greenhouse gas emissions.
Schwartz. “Soil as Carbon Storehouse: New Weapon in Climate Fight?” Yale Environment 360, March 4, 2014. http://e360.yale.edu/feature/soil_as_carbon_storehouse_new_weapon_in_climate_fight/2744/.
The world’s soils have lost 50 to 70 percent of their original carbon stock, causing a huge increase in carbon dioxide in the air. Soil researchers find that land-restoration programs in places like the North American prairie, the North China plain, and the desert interior of Australia can help put carbon back into the soil. Doing so is vital to offset fossil fuel emissions and to feed the world’s growing population.