One of the best carbon storage systems we can put into action to slow down climate change is right under our fight: dirt. Yes, the quality of dirt is on a spectrum between inert clumps and soil rich with with life. When it comes to using dirt to store carbon we want to create as much soil as possible because the better the quality of soil the better it is at capturing carbon. Plus, is we improve the quality of soil we will get better crop yields, happier insects, and all our plants will thank us.
As the largest terrestrial carbon sink, which stores three times more carbon than the entire atmosphere, soil offers a vast repository with immense, untapped capacity. Since the beginning of agriculture, food production has removedabout half, or 133 gigatons, of the carbon once stored in agricultural soil, and the rate of loss has increased dramatically in the last two centuries, creating a large void to be filled. Restoring this carbon stockpile would sequester the equivalent of almost one fifth of atmospheric carbon, bringing greenhouse gas concentrations nearly to preâ€“industrial revolution levels andmaking soil less erodible. Letâ€™s be realisticâ€”weâ€™re not going to restore 133 gigatons of carbonany time soon. But working toward this goal could be a centerpiece of a multifaceted plan to address both erosion and climate change.
Suburbanization and poor land policy have done incredible damage to soil and food systems. It turns out that the damage down to the soil itself is a contributing factor to the increased speed in human-created climate change. So to slow down the rate of climate change we can improve our soil and you can do so locally or on a large scale.
“We need to focus on the carbon dioxide supply into the atmosphere, but we really need to focus on the demand side as well,” says Larry Kopald, co-founder of The Carbon Underground, a nonprofit that’s advocates for soil carbon storage. “We have to put the CO2 back into a sink where it’s demanded and where it is useful, and improve the reabsorption of the carbon that is already out there.”
Constant plowing causes erosion, allowing soil content to flow into waterways or be blown away. And climate change itself exacerbates soil carbon loss, recent research has shown.
The benefits of organic farming keep revealing themselves – it turns out that the soil itself benefits from farmers growing organic crops.
â€œFarmers interested in transitioning to organic production will be happy to see that with good management, yields can be the same, with potentially higher returns and better soil quality,â€ said Delate, who leads the project.
The U.S. organic ag industry continues to grow and was a $31 billion industry in 2011, Delate said. To market a crop as organic, it must be grown on land that has received no synthetic chemicals for three years prior to harvest.
England’s topsoil contains a lot of carbon and if things go unchecked it may erode away.Thankfully, the British government is going to release a plan of action to make sure that the topsoil will be protected by a sustainable action plan. Of course, the soil is also good for growing corps and the protection of this soil is great for farmers.
Mr Benn said: “Soil is one of the building blocks of life. Good quality soils are essential for a thriving farming industry, a sustainable food supply, and a healthy environment.
“Britain’s soils hold more carbon than all the trees in Europe’s forests – and their protection is critical if we are to successfully combat climate change.
“This is an important step in increasing the value we place on soil, and will safeguard this vital resource now and in the future.”
A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesman said: “England’s soil has suffered over the last 200 years from the impacts of intensive farming and industrial pollution, and today is under threat from erosion by wind and rain, a loss of organic matter and nutrients, and pressure for development.”
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