Restoring the natural balance – the role of regenerative agriculture

Innovative methods leading the effort to pull CO2 from the atmosphere and restore carbon to the soil through regenerative farming practices.

An innovative agriculture-tech startup is leading the effort to pull one trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and restore carbon to the soil through regenerative farming practices.

Introduction

We don’t buy into the climate scare narrative and the endless repetition of the almost meaningless mantras “climate change” and “reversing climate change” which replaced “global warming” when the planet stopped warming and none of the global warming prophesies of doom came true. We’ve discussed our reasons elsewhere on this site.

However, we do support efforts to apply our technological know-how to dispensing with highly polluting agri-chemicals and to restoring soil quality and bio-diversity as well as the organic vitality of our food and all effective efforts to take a responsibility for the good health of the planet.

There is the natural cycle by which (put very crudely) humans and animal organisms breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, whilst plants, trees, crops and so forth breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. In other words, through this interchange the flora and fauna of this planet help one another in the overall business of survival.

The climate, of course, has always changed – gone through warming and cooling cycles – and these changes, not yet fully understood evidently, appear to have much to do with various cycles of solar activity and changes in the Earth’s orbit. How much human industrial activity affects these natural cycles and in what way precisely is not known or at least has not been established beyond question.

As the climate will change even without human presence at all, there is no chance we will stop it changing, unless we can control what the sun and the Earth in orbit around it are doing and as for, “reversing climate change”, what does that even mean?

Certainly the global warming brigade got their sums or assumptions wrong as evinced by the failure of their predictions. There appears to have been an over-estimation of the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide and this, along with latching onto and propagandising naturally-caused changes – appears in turn to have been used to scare the crap out of the citizenry and make people like Al Gore and some fellow capitalists very rich.

Part of the hysteria has been to “blame CO2” whilst it is not as powerful in its greenhouse effect as, for example, water vapour and it is indeed a vital component of our biosphere. At the same time, this tends to deflect attention from chemicals – true pollutants – that have no business being in our soil or atmosphere at all – such as those introduced by biochemical fertilisers and pesticides and, of course various chemical plants, factories, mines, refineries and so forth.

It is also worth noting that the article makes the point that industrial agricultural methods themselves play a role in affecting the O2-CO2 cycle mentioned above. And when it talks of pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and restoring carbon to the soil, through regenerative farming practices, it is also talking of restoring oxygen – which we humans and animals breathe – to the atmosphere.

Having said all that, it seems to us reasonable to assume that human activity will affect the natural processes of the climate but nobody has yet established in what direction and to what degree precisely.

It is therefore reasonable and desirable to pour coals on the determined and methodical search for and implementation of sources of energy, agricultural methods and so forth that are as benign in their effect on the biosphere and its natural cycles and changes as possible. It is equally desirable that this is done without hysteria and scaremongering or trying to convince the kids they will all be dead before they are thirty – efforts often driven by covert political agenda – and by building upon the successes and progress that have already been made.

We consider that it IS entirely feasible to improve our effect upon the environment WITHOUT us having to suffer some catastrophic drop in living standards or submit to some new barmy globalist social engineering experiment. We humans actually have a track record of doing just that.

The burning of coal, for instance, to heat homes and power industry, facilitated an advance in living standards along with a massive growth in the population.

When the burning of coal reached a scale where it presented serious environmental problems (for instance the London Smog of 1952 that killed about 12 000 people), the development of oil, gas and nuclear power presented cleaner energies that enabled us to raise human living standards still further at the same time as a vast increase in population.

And now, developments in solar and wind energies and so forth enable us to supplement – or maybe even in time replace – oil and gas.

And, of course, there is nuclear power . . .

The point here is that mankind does have a record of developing  technologies to solve environmental problems, problems of hunger and so forth and as the next set of problems show up, solving those as well. We need to pour coals upon that ability to identify and resolve problems. It is notable that government is never the SOURCE of those solutions. The source is always at the grass roots, the creativity, inspiration and endeavour of the citizenry. If government plays a role at all, it is to encourage and reward such creativity or, at the very least, not get in the way of Man, the Solver.

It is for these reasons, whilst not supporting the endlessly repeated “climate change” mantra of the following article we do support and encourage the development of regenerative agriculture – along with other methods or restoring the balance such as reforestation – due to its broad benefits for the planet and, of course, you and me and myriad other species with which our survival is inextricably intertwined. – Steve

The solution to climate change is just below our feet

Adam Chappell was in the fight of his life. He and his brother were co-managing the 9,000-acre farm where they grew up in Cotton Plant, Arkansas. They’d each gone off to college to do something different, but couldn’t stay away. Now an invasion of pigweed was threatening to destroy everything.

“We were spraying ourselves broke just to fight this weed,” Chappell says. “We were spending more money than we could ever hope to make. So for the farm to survive, we knew we had to change the entire way we were doing things.”

Chappell turned to YouTube, where he found a guy growing organic pumpkins in a cereal rye cover crop, and was awestruck by the clean, wide rows. “He hadn’t put any herbicides down; all the weed control in that field was the cover crop,” he says. That fall, the Chappell brothers planted cereal rye with their cotton and soybeans, and they kept the farm.

On his farm in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, Adam Chappell tends 9,000 acres of cotton, corn, soybeans, and rice. This land has been in his family for four generations.

Chappell’s triumph over pigweed made him a proponent of regenerative farming practices. He stopped tilling most of the soil, which depletes it, and he’s nearly eliminated pesticide and synthetic fertilizer. His soil has become healthy and dark, alive with earthworms, rich with carbon. That’s good for Chappell, and even better for the rest of us. It means that, aside from producing more nutritious food, his farm is helping to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Agriculture has played a major role in the climate crisis—about a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from land use and agriculture combined—but farmers are uniquely situated to be part of the solution. While the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached its highest level in human history, plants can draw down the carbon and restore the soil’s organic carbon content—in the right conditions. If enough farmers adopted regenerative farming practices, they could begin to reverse the effects of climate change.

That’s the vision guiding The Terraton Initiative, a global movement with an ambitious goal: to capture one trillion tons (a teraton) of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and restore carbon to the soil through regenerative farming practices. The effort is the brainchild of agriculture-tech startup Indigo Ag.

A neighbor’s cattle graze on Ben Riensche’s farm in Jesup, Iowa. Riensche planted a “cocktail” of cover crops including radishes, turnips, and sunflowers to improve the biome of his field. By grazing here, the cattle are helping to return nitrogen to the soil.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JIM RICHARDSON

“There are many solutions we should be pursuing to reduce and reverse the effect of climate change,” says Indigo CEO David Perry. “But sequestering atmospheric carbon in agricultural soils represents the only solution I know of that is scalable, affordable, and immediate.”

Author and environmentalist Paul Hawken, one of the leading voices on sustainability, backs this up. His recent book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, outlines 100 solutions to climate change. Regenerative farming practices ranked No. 11 on his list—though for his next book, he plans to move it to No. 1. “There are at least twenty different practices that constitute regenerative agriculture in its fullest scope and when all of these practices are added together, it represents by far the single greatest solution to the climate crisis,” Hawken says.

“The relationship between regenerative agriculture and the climate is an intimate one that has been forgotten,” Hawken says. “Really, it’s a path to walking back the carbon we have placed in the air. We placed it by industrial agriculture, deforestation, and combustion of fossil fuels. Those three together have nearly [destroyed] the planet. What we’re talking about is bringing carbon back home.”

Modern combines use GPS and other technology to guide the harvest. They’re named for combining reaping, threshing, and sowing into one process. Grain wagons collect the harvested grain and transfer their loads to a waiting semi-truck.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JIM RICHARDSON

So how do we bring one trillion tons of carbon home? Plants pull carbon out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis and deposit it in the soil through their roots. Regenerative farming practices like no-till cultivation, cover crops, and crop rotation keep the carbon in the soil, where it builds over time. In turn, carbon-rich organic matter feeds healthy plants.

Conventional agriculture has the opposite effect. Plowing, using synthetic fertilizer and chemical pesticides, and growing the same crop year after year degrade the soil and release carbon into the atmosphere. Globally, cropland soils have lost a significant percentage of their organic carbon content.

The Terraton Initiative is grounded in the idea that if we could restore organic carbon content to all 3.6 billion acres of crop-producing farmland worldwide, we’d effectively be drawing about a trillion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and depositing it into the soil, where it can do some good.

On a smaller scale, it’s already working. Farmers who use regenerative practices are seeing their soil carbon levels rise significantly. They’re also harvesting healthier crops that contain more nutrients and are more resistant to drought and other stress factors. But despite the clear benefits, they’re still in the minority.

Annie Dee harvests corn on her ranch in Aliceville, Alabama. After three decades of using cover crops and no-till practices, Dee says she’s observed an increase in organic matter, microbes, and earthworms, which improve soil health and structure.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JIM RICHARDSON

Perry points out that most farmers get paid for volume rather than quality or sustainability. “The adoption of regenerative farming practices will happen pretty slowly unless there are incentives put in place,” he says.

The Terraton Initiative helps farmers access an entirely new revenue stream for carbon credits. When they sign up for Indigo Carbon, they’re given tools and advice to support their transition to regenerative practices. Indigo verifies the amount of carbon captured in the soil, then issues carbon credits to the farmers. Buyers could be any business or consumer looking to offset their own carbon footprints.

Angela “Annie” Dee, a second-generation farmer in Aliceville, Alabama, has been using regenerative farming practices for almost 30 years. Her 10,000-acre ranch is a beautiful, remote place where ancient shark teeth are found in river sediment, and she often moves her cattle without encountering anyone. “You do not accidentally come across this spot on the planet,” she says. “You mean to come here.”

In the last three decades, Dee says she’s observed an increase in organic matter, microbes, and earthworms, which improve soil health and structure. She isn’t sure why more growers aren’t doing the same. “I see a lot of people right here in my own area who aren’t using cover crops or no-till, and I don’t understand it,” she says. “It’s just had so many positive benefits.”

Ben Riensche, a fifth-generation farmer in Jesup, Iowa, hadn’t given much thought to regenerative farming practices until two years ago, when Indigo began using his 15,000-acre farm for testing and research. “Indigo identified things that would improve the sustainability of how we farm,” Riensche says. “That’s why I started rolling with them.”

He planted a “cocktail” of cover crops—including radishes, turnips, and sunflowers—to improve the biome of his field. And he provides grazing for his neighbor’s cattle, who in turn provide natural fertilizer. Taking steps to enhance the quality of his soil should ultimately increase crop yield, but then, “not everything is about yield,” Riensche says. He has set his sights higher.

“I hope we don’t degrade our land,” he says. “I hope that we can de-commoditize agriculture via tech so small farms become more viable. I hope we have less impact on the environment, and the food we raise is more healthful.”

For his part, Chappell says he’s glad that a new company is “putting some fight in the game” for sustainable agriculture. “I really think that Indigo’s deal’s got some teeth in it and they’re going to see it through,” he says.

Regenerative farming practices have real potential to change the course of climate change, but it’s not only up to farmers. Businesses and consumers can help by purchasing carbon credits, buying sustainably grown food, pushing for policy changes, and spreading the message.

“Success in The Terraton Initiative will require collaboration from within the agricultural industry and from outside of the industry, but it’s completely within our hands,” says Perry. “We’re not waiting for a new technical breakthrough. We don’t need advances that aren’t here today. We just have to decide collectively that we’re going to make it happen.”

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The above article is from National Geographic. Visit National Geographic for many more great articles

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