Agriculture is a major contributor to climate change, but with a little (or a lot) of change it can also be a solution to the problem. This past weekend, I was fortunate to attend a two day workshop with Eric Toensmeier, author of “The Carbon Farmng Solution“. His excellent book is over 500 pages long- so I’ll in no way try to summarize it here. I can share a few points that I took home though.
Most people are aware that we need to drastically reduce the amount of emissions of gasses like CO2 and Methane that are contributing to changes in Earth’s atmosphere. That is absolutely true, but we also need to sequester carbon into our soils and living organisms (like trees). Living systems and healthy soils have the ability to hold and store carbon from the atmosphere into a fairly stable form.
Our current agricultural system is headed in the opposite direction needed. While the scale and scope of change that needs to happen seems insurmountable, the solutions are not all that complicated and they actually yield more food. Simmered down, here are few basic ways to sequester more carbon.
Increase organic matter
- till less or not at all
- keep the soil covered with mulch or living plants
- add compost and biochar, use cover crops
PLANT TREES AND OTHER PERENNIALS!
- even in large acreage of mechanized systems, trees can be intercropped with other annuals like grains without sacrificing yield, even if the trees are just on the edges as windbreaks or riparian buffers
- we need to convert a lot of acreage to perennial crops and change our diets to match
Integrate animals into farming systems to build soil and fertility
- done well, rotational grazing can build soil in places that are less appropriate for growing crops
- combining trees/shrubs with pasture can build more soil, sequester more carbon, and grow crops in place for animals or for sale
I was happy to find that we at Peace of Earth are already doing all of these things. Not specifically to sequester carbon, but because all of these practices also increase your yield, make your farm more resilient to change, add diversity, add nutrition, store water, stop erosion… That is the good new I think. The solution is full of agricultural practices that already make sense, are beautiful, and grow more food. It’s not a bitter pill to swallow, but obviously there are a few large industrial and governmental forces that are not currently on board. These changes need to happen now, not in 20 years. We can all affect change in our own yards and gardens, communities, and nations. Live by example, talk to your farmers, support the change you want to see, and vote.