Carbon sequestration

Another big gain from the acres planted was in the amount of total organic carbon (TOC) that was sequestered in the soil. Overall, in Crawford County, the increased amounts of TOC sequestered ranged from greater than 1,000 tons per watershed to between 100-150 tons per watershed. Many areas in northwest Grant County saw gains of between 300-500 tons per watershed up to greater than 1,000 tons per watershed.

 Carbon sequestration is the intake and storage of the element carbon. Because the soil soaks up carbon that would otherwise rise up and trap heat in the atmosphere, trees and plants such as cover crops are important players in  the mitigation of the impacts of climate change.

“We estimate that as a result of the aerial cover crop program, we have seen increases of between 50-60 percent in the amount of carbon sequestered in the soils of Crawford and Grant counties,” Bendorf said. “Because organic matter is estimated to contain about 58 percent organic carbon, each percent increase in SOM results in about a 1.72 increase in sequestered carbon.”

According to the website, ‘Project Drawdown,’ “the world cannot be fed unless the soil is fed. Regenerative agriculture enhances and sustains the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content, which in turn improves productivity.

“Regenerative agricultural practices include:

• no tillage,

• diverse cover crops,

• in-farm fertility (versus external nutrients),

• no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and

• multiple crop rotations.

“Together, these practices increase carbon-rich soil organic matter. The result: vital microbes proliferate, roots go deeper, nutrient uptake improves, water retention increases, plants are more pest resistant, and soil fertility compounds. Farms are seeing soil carbon levels rise from a baseline of one to two percent, up to five to eight percent, over ten or more years, which can add up to 25 to 60 tons of carbon per acre.

“It is estimated that at least 50 percent of the carbon in the earth’s soils has been released into the atmosphere over the past centuries. Bringing that carbon back home through regenerative agriculture is one of the greatest opportunities to address human and climate health, along with the financial well-being of farmers.”

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