RESTORING FARMLAND SOIL HEALTH WOULD SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE THE SOILS ABILITY TO STORE CO2
Updated: Feb 8
Governments around the world are making agreements to reduce CO2 levels in order to reduce the effect of planetary warming. They are planning on cars producing less CO2 by going electric, reducing industrial CO2 production, reducing ammonium from animal farming, etc…
The one thing that I am not reading is changing farming practices. Soils together with our oceans are the biggest storage of CO2. Yet every time a farmer plows his field he releases tons of stored CO2. Simultaneously this antiquated practice destroys the soil structure causing the loss of vital carbon & organic matter content, significantly diminishing water storage capacity, destroys its complex structure and symbiosis with the soil microflora and causes loss of top-soil.
Intensive soil tillage “butchers the biology” in the soil. It cuts, slices, and dices the soil and blend’s, mixes, and inverts the soil creating havoc for the soil biology. Dr. Don Reicosky, (Soil Scientist, Emeritus)
Furthermore, the reliance on agricultural chemicals has severely affected the quality of our soils with 60% of worldwide agricultural soils being severely depleted in organic matter (O.M.), having low levels of Micro-Organisms (M.O.), causing soil compaction, poor water drainage, high residues of chemicals and yields either decreasing or remaining stable, etc. All these factor contribute significantly to the soils ability to store CO2 as depleted & compacted soils have poor structures and therefore cannot store as much CO2 as a healthy balanced soil.
Worldwide agriculture CO2 emissions:
Worldwide man-made CO2 emissions: ±43 billion tons of CO2 a year
Tillage responsible for a net release of 2 tons CO2/Ha
Worldwide 1.5 billion hectares of land is tilled at least once yearly.
Worldwide Tractors emissions produce 43 million tons CO2/year.
Eliminating plowing in favour of no-till farming and implementing year-long soil cover would significantly reduce CO2 loss from farmland while significantly increasing the amount of CO2 the soil can store.
No Till farming: Definition: No-tillage or zero tillage is a farming system in which the seeds and nutrients are directly deposited into untilled soil which has retained a year-long crop cover either as a live crop biomass or dead crop residue. NEW FARMING We need to implement farming methods that excludes the usage of phyto-chemicals and tillage. Examples are:
Bio-stimulants – there are over 100 plants that have naturally occurring benefits that can be used to boost plant health, plant resistance, plant immunity, deter insects, etc.
Using naturally occurring chemicals only – Hydrogen peroxide, Neem, etc..
Minimum till seeding
Implement a legal minimum O.M. soil content under which the land may not be used for cropping.
Only allow subsidy payments to farmers who can show that they have healthy soils, year round soil cover, minimal soil erosion, high soil carbon content, etc.
Government regulations regarding phyto-chemicals needs to urgently be changed One of the biggest hurdles many face when wanting to use alternative environment friendly alternatives such as bio-stimulants is government legislation. In many countries it’s not permitted to use them freely as they are not approved under the pesticides regulations which basically dictate what a farmer can use. Unfortunately these regulations are outdated, highly restrictive and entirely aimed at controlling the use of phyto-chemicals. Unfortunately none of the environment friendly alternatives will ever meet the current requirements as they work very differently than phyto-chemicals. Example 1: An insecticide must kill insect, but an alternative will probably not kill the insect:
It will create an environment in which the insect does not want to be in. This chases them away and they will either find somewhere else to live or starve.
Example 2: The product will only damage insect eggs whereby the eggs won’t hatch meaning new insect generations don’t replace the older generations and eventually you end up with little to no insects. But as neither of these methods are approved under many countries pesticide control legislation they may not be used by farmers even though they create no harmful residues or risk and do not affect bees.
Restoring and protecting the world's soil could absorb more than five billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year - roughly what the US emits annually.
Governments need to be bold and make these decisions probably against the wishes of certain groups who have high interest in the continued usage of phyto-chemicals. Government can’t just go around saying we have to decrease man-made CO2 production and increase CO2 storage without taking drastic measures to change farming practices. If you meaningfully aim to reduce man-made CO2 and significantly increase CO2 storage you realistically cannot do it without changing farming methods. Besides it about time our politicians showed some “balls” and make the right decisions for our planet instead of decisions that will get them re-elected.
Restoring and cleaning damaged soils The great thing about nature is that under the right conditions and given the right tools it will restore itself incredibly fast. The best cleaner and restorers of agricultural soil is the soil microflora. Given the right “tools” they can restore and clean-up soils incredibly fast…. Environment benefits from a healthy balanced soil:
Increased water holding capacity and use efficiency
Increased cation exchange capacity
Improved water quality
Improved filtration – less runoff
Decreased soil compaction
Improved soil tilth and structure
Reduced air pollution
Increased soil oxygen
Reduced fertiliser inputs
Increased soil buffer capacity
Increased biological activity
Increased nutrient cycling and storage
Increase micro-flora diversity
Increased capacity to handle manure and other wastes
More wildlife and insect diversity
Increased CO2 storage
So let’s park the ploughs and stop using unnatural farm chemicals and let nature do what its done best for millions of years…. Because nature has been doing it far longer than we and it’s about time we work with nature instead of trying to make nature do what we think is right.