Thursday, 4 February 2016

Building carbon in farm soils

One of my passions is about the potential of farm soils to increase their carbon content. Soil contains organic matter, which is largely comprised of carbon. When we add organic matter to our soils, through green manures, manures, composts and other materials, we are literally nourishing the soil ecosystem.

The benefits for the farmer or grower is soil that contains more biological activity, holds more moisture - yet drains better, has a better structure and is more fertile. This translates in to not just higher yields - and therefore hopefully higher profits, but more importantly it is building up the soil 'capital bank' that enables good production on the land to continue for many years to come.

For society, these higher carbon soils mean there is literally more life on the land, upon which people walk, cycle, sit or just admire. More life in the soil means more above it - flowers, insects, birds, animals. Biodiversity above and below ground are completely intertwined. Furthermore the quality of food coming from fertile, carbon rich soils is superior to that of depleted soils, resulting in increased health from consuming such food.

For the planet, every bit of carbon that is locked up in the soil (and it is quite a stable place), means less CO2 in the atmosphere. Whilst farming is one of the largest sources of man-made greenhouse gases, it also has the potential to become one of the greatest tools we have to turn the tide on climate change. 
This carbon sequestration (absorption) has tremendous potential to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels.

What I hope you can see is that by focussing our energies on building carbon in soils (farms, gardens, forests - it all counts), we can make fantastic positive changes, indeed this is a win-win-win situation!

For more about this topic please read some soil carbon resources on the Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit website, and this article I wrote for Farming Matters magazine