Carbon is not a dirty word: it is a matter of re-carbonizing our soils

Karn Manhas is the CEO and founder of the company Theramerabased in Vancouver, Canada.

I spent most of last year talking to world leaders about the role of agriculture in turning back the clock on climate change, and two things coincided: good intentions and a lack of understanding of one important issue: decarbonisation.

There is talk of decarbonisation everywhere. We have seen viral thoughts about decarbonization travel, architectureeven music. And yes, these conversations are vital – the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere the highest that was more than 4 million years. We have brought the Earth’s natural cycles out of balance, and climate change consequences.

But there is an equivalent problem that no one seems to be talking about: despite all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, there is almost no carbon in the soil. In fact, the recarbonization of our soil may play a role in the decarbonization of our atmosphere.

Carbon is not a dirty word

Talks about carbon sequestration in the soil have been going on for years, and a lot of coverage leads you to believe that there are two groups – one that believes it is a panacea for climate change, and the other that discredits the science around it. As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Let’s start with the undeniable but often ignored fact: despite all the negative press, we owe our lives to carbon. It is literally the backbone of life.

In agriculture, carbon has many benefits. This creates richer soils on which to grow more resistant plants, rich in nutrients, leading to healthier people. These carbon-rich soils produce higher yields and require fewer entrances both fertilizers and pesticides, thus saving farmers thousands of dollars annually.

Increasing carbon also allows the soil to hold much more water. In fact, every 1% increase in organic matter helps to contain the soil more than 90,000 liters per acre. This is very important to ensure that farms are resilient and healthy through drought and mitigate the effects of floods during heavy rains. In other words, recarbonizing the soil is not just a good idea – we need to adapt to climate change and reduce the risks in our food stocks.

This is how recarbonization works

People who do not work in agriculture are always surprised when they learn about what they learned in junior high school – it’s photosynthesis. Plants draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and together with water and sunlight create simple sugars. In fact, most of the atmospheric oxygen is that supports life on our planet is created as a by-product of this interaction.

This natural process can be co-opted by farmers in several ways to improve the health of their farms. Anyone who wants to take a regenerative approach to agriculture can start with these simple methods.

  • No date: This is a table-wheel to store carbon in the soil. A teaspoon of healthy soil has more living organisms than humans on earth. But the treatment disrupts their habitat, exposes and kills them. It also releases carbon from the topsoil and reduces its ability to hold nutrients and water, which exacerbates problems such as drought and flooding. No-till, by comparison, leaves the soil protected and intact, preserving its structure, reducing erosion and contributing to overall soil health.
  • Ground cover: Without plants, the soil is exposed to elements that can deprive it of nutrients. Cover crops reduce erosion with their thyroid foliage, while increasing the potential for photosynthesis and killing more carbon into the ground through the living roots of plants – literally breathing life into the ground. There was one farmer my company talked to a self-proclaimed skeptic when he planted five acres of cover crops as a test. He saw how his crops became more resilient to things he had the least control over, such as droughts and floods. Why did it turn out so well? Its cover crops improved the soil ability to store carbon.
  • Biodiversity: If one crop is planted repeatedly, it drains the same nutrients from the soil. Farmers then tend to over-correct, relying heavily on fertilizer to increase depleted soil nutrients and help diseased plants. Conversely, the diversity of plants, insects, microbes, wildlife and animals provides replenishment of the soil with various nutrients. Indeed, research has revealed multicultural cultures surpasses their one-species counterparts – even in drought conditions – improve soil health and store carbon in the soil.

Why recarbonization can change the world

When it comes to these regenerative techniques, the results are obvious to farmers who have made the shift, but some disagreement remains regarding the broader implications for carbon storage in the soil. This comes down to the complexity of nature’s systems.

In nature, materials such as carbon are constantly in the flow – it is constantly stored and released, and this confuses many people – including scientists. It is incredibly difficult to accurately track, leading to disagreements over how much is in the land, how much is discarded and how much can be confiscated through renewable agriculture. To harness the true potential of nature for solutions and to resolve these differences, we need better data.

Currently, there is no set of tools that are good enough and cheap enough to reliably measure soil carbon content on a scale. Agriculture is risky enough, as it is, to persuade people to make the leap from how agriculture was done to how it was done could To do this, we need a more reliable way to measure the amount of carbon in the soil at a given point in time.

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Once we get the best measurements, we will discover new potential. Just being able to say with confidence how much carbon is recovered by regenerative techniques will help pave the way for carbon credit market – a completely new carbon economy, where soil is a reliable asset class. This is a way to rapidly expand renewable agriculture, which will allow you to grow healthier farms, food and communities.

This summer I spent time with the Iowa tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. The first nation began converting its farms to regenerative methods four years ago, and has already seen incredible results not only in food production. It united the community with an emphasis on the health of their land.

It may seem clichéd, but there is a good reason why the carbon cycle is also called the life cycle. Our best hope for mitigating the effects of climate change is to return to synchronization with the natural cycles of the planet. It would be wise for us to start with what is right under our feet. Carbon is not a dirty word: it is a matter of re-carbonizing our soils

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