Carbon Farming


Some farmers are working with—and getting paid for—a new kind of crop, although it doesn’t result in a saleable product and, in fact, results in a net loss: of carbon. Grants are now available in Marin County, CA, to encourage “carbon farming,” or sequestering carbon in the soil through various practices.

This isn’t exactly a new concept; the techniques used for carbon farming are pretty much the same as those used to promote healthy soil, but the California Coastal Conservancy and the Marin Resource Conservation District, which are providing and administering $200,000 in grants, are promoting them in a new way. And in too many places they’re not being practiced at all. Some of those techniques are simply growing plants—including cover crops—that take carbon dioxide from the air and transfer it to the soil, using compost and mulch, and using different grazing practices. (Incidentally, this week, May 7–13, is Compost Awareness Week—you can read more at

As this article notes, it’s estimated that we’ve lost 50–80% of the world’s topsoil in the last 150 years, and that “more than a third of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere during that time has come from changes in land use.”

In Marin County, testing will continue for a decade to measure baseline levels of organic carbon in the soil, compared to levels at one, three, five, and 10 years from the project’s start. Statewide, about $7.5 million will be made available through the Department of Food and Agriculture for a similar demonstration and incentive program, part of the Healthy Soils Initiative.

The Marin Resource Conservation District points out other benefits, in addition to carbon sequestration: healthier soils have less runoff of water and nutrients; can absorb more moisture, some of which eventually makes its way to the aquifers; and, not least, increases productivity of the land for the farmers. EC_bug_web

  • As my biology Prof use to say, “What a bunch of Whoey!!”

  • Jeff Creque.

    HI CS; as my biology prof used to say, “what part of photosynthesis don’t you understand?”

  • John Miller.

    by using the “Applied Science” of the Biomimetic products, we have proven that we can accelerate the soil carbon sequestering process faster than the application of soil amendments such as compost, manure or biochar can contribute. We have grown over
    24 inches of long term carbon rich soil in 12 years without using any of these amendments.
    Chemical fertilizers discourages the various biological activity that is necessary to do this.
    You must create the soil system that takes advantage of the hugh extra sugars that the
    photosynthesis is able to create because of the Soil. It all starts there.
    Our Soil Organic Matter increased from a desert sand with .6 % SOM to 5.8% SOM. That
    now provides us water storage of 193,148 gallons per acre foot. This system is creating
    carbon thru an anabolic process. Not by a catabolic process of breaking down organic matter.

  • William S.

    I have found it ironic that the drought in Southern California has led to the wholesale removal of groundcover and its replacement with artificial grass (i.e., plastic groundcover) or rock surfaces, similar to desert landscapes. I am not diminishing the issue of the drought or the need to reduce atmospheric carbon, but I have watched in amazement as commercial properties have removed 25+ year old trees and landscaping that provided growth and development of topsoil and microbial colonies in the shady areas (not to mention homes to thousands of birds) and placed rock layers that get very hot in the sun. Reflected heat from these surfaces increases the local temperatures, similar to that of parking lots and roads.
    At some point it would be beneficial to find a middle ground that allows more vegetation without large water demands to expand the carbon removal into areas like Southern California.


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