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 compostfoundation.org.)Do you have the proper BMPs to prevent post-fire erosion control disasters, including landslides, rock falls, and mud and debris flow? Get ahead while there’s still time! Join our panel of experts for a 5-session Fire and Rain: Post-Fire Erosion Control webinar series (5 PDHs / 0.5 CEU) covering the ins and outs of post-fire erosion control applications, techniques, and best practices. Register at ForesterUniversity.com.
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.