- Robert Turner
The U.S. is losing four tons of topsoil per acre, every year.
Updated: Nov 10, 2021
It’s worthwhile to reflect on the wonder beneath our feet—there are more microbes in a tablespoon of healthy soil than there are people living on earth. There’s a lot going on down there, and scientists are now just scratching the surface.
“Plants of course are special because of their ability to turn the energy from the sun into carbon-based fuel for the growth and energy of almost all living things, including the animals who feed on the plants. In the miracle of photosynthesis, the hydrogen atoms from water are bound to carbon dioxide molecules to create simple carbohydrates such as the sugar glucose. .”
Plants capture carbon from the atmosphere, turn it into usable energy for life on earth, and store a lot more carbon underground. And as it turns out, this natural process of carbon storage is the most cost-effective way to pull carbon from the atmosphere and mitigate climate change. Farmers and tiny microbes in the soil might just save us all.
Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, we’ve been pulling gigatons of carbon out of the ground in the form of fossil fuels and burning it and pumping it into the atmosphere. We’ve also released carbon from the ground through harmful agricultural practices like over tilling the soil or burning and clearing forests to create more agricultural land.
The simple solution to climate change is this: Excess carbon needs to go back in the ground where it belongs and where it can do some good. And there is a natural process that we’re just now discovering that is key to this underground carbon sink.
Modern, conventional agriculture is harmful to the microbial life in the soil and disrupts natures carbon storage capacity. Heavy cultivation (tilling) or the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers reduces the fungal population. Pesticides can have harmful effects on helpful bacteria.
Organic and regenerative agriculture, on the other hand, helps protect and build the microbes in the soil that play such a major role in carbon sequestration. Sustainable, carbon storage practices include low till or no till agriculture, cover crops, crop rotations and getting cattle back on pasture in a rotational pasturing program.
Soil loss and degradation is now a global emergency as vast regions of the world turn to infertile desert. We can no longer continue with a "business as usual" mentality. Future generations are counting on us.