Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Carbon Sequestration aka Good Dirt

I read something recently that seems very important and I wanted to re-print it here. It's from Delicious Living magazine which is offered free of charge at my local health food store, Mission Mountain Natural Foods. The article is entitled, In Defense of Organics, and was written by Radha Marcum. The section of the article that interested me most is about something called "carbon sequestration." Here it is:

Food miles are on everyone's minds these days. On average, food travels 1,300 to 2,000 miles from farm to plate. But choosing local alone can't solve our fossil fuel and CO2 woes, say researchers. Only 11 precent of a food's carbon footprint is tied to transport. The remainder is almost entirely associated with growing, processing and packaging the food.

Organic farming take those nonrenewable petroleum products, such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, out of the equation. Instead, it relies on cover crops and organic fertilizers to boost productivity, along with nonpetroleum-based pest and weed management tools. And newly published research from the Rodale Institute points to an even bigger potential environmental benefit of organic farming: carbon sequestration.

Looking at nearly three decades of research, Jeff Moyer, farm director of the Rodale Institute and chairman of the National Organic Standards Board, and other scientists, such as Cornell's David Pimentel, Ph.D, have found that healthy, microbe-rich soil bolstered by organic farming methods has the ability to remove CO2 (the most prevalent greenhouse gas) from the air - and lots of it. "By increasing and relplenishing biodiversity in the soil we can sequester carbon at a greater rate than we originally thought possible," says Moyer. An acre of organic cropland can take approximately 7,000 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere each year. Multiply that by the 434 million acres of U.S. cropland and it's the equivalent to eliminating emissions from 217 million cars (nearly 88 percent of US cars today).

How does dirt become a carbon sequestering tool? By using cover crops, organic compost, and chemical-free pest and weed control practices, organic farming actively builds biodiversity in the soil. In fact, if you took the microscopic fungi living in a teaspoon of soil from organically managed farmland and placed them end to end, the resulting chain would stretch hundreds of yards, says Moyer, many times more than those in conventionally grown soil. The fungi and other living organisms abundant in organic soils naturally pull carbon from the air and store it in the soil, where it is retained for decades. Scientists have found that, at worst, some Midwestern soils have gone from 20 percent carbon to between 1 and 2 percent carbon in the last 60 years alone.

So you mean we have a tool to sequester carbon and improve the soil and the food we eat and bring people together to get it done? All those sweet little microscopic fungi will take care of all that carbon? Incredible. So simple. So obvious. I'm working my little patch of ground; how about you?

If you think this is important, pass it around. And don't forget to link Delicious Living and Eclectic Recovery.


Diva Carla said...

Woohoo! Angela!! Yes. Starhawk at Earth Activist Training: If we restore the soils of the midwestern US farmland, we would reverse global warming. It is easy to do. Nature does most of the work. As Joel Salatin says, " We are in the business of creating soil to be home to millions of dancing, copulating earthworms." There is one more thing: Mulch. Sunlight on the soils releases the carbon back into the atmosphere. So cover the soil with straw, cardboard, or cut weeds. Adds nutrients, preserves moisture and keeps the carbon in the soil. Let's sheet mulch Iowa!

Angela said...

Well, I should've known Starhawk would be on the case. Not to mention Mothern Nature. :)

Thank you for visiting, Carla! Much, much love to you.

Anonymous said...

EXACTLY--and everyone can do their part right in their own backyard.

Anonymous said...

by the way---Anonymous is Cindy

Angela said...

Hey, Cindy!! Love you!!