I have uttered the words “carbon” or “carbon sequestration” more in the last year than my previous forty-nine. The level of attention that climate change or more specifically Anthropogenic Climate Change has received has dramatically increased in the last few years. The focus on agriculture’s role as part of the solution has increased even more since the Paris Climate Summit last fall as the world tries to figure out “How does Agriculture play a role in the mitigation of Climate Change?” The Context Network has been asked to engage in this interesting question on multiple fronts and even though there is still a lot of debate, the answer is getting clearer.
Let’s talk dirt
As a boy I grew up dirty. What I mean is, at the end of darned near every day, I was well soiled. I remember my mother scrubbing behind my ears, between my toes, and about every other spot dirt could accumulate. We spent hours, days, and weeks outside. If we were playing it was in mud, in the creek near the house, down by the pond, on the river, and if we were working (which was a lot) it was again in the dirt.
We were weeding by hand or hoe, harvesting, or getting ready to start the cycle over again. In agriculture the land, the soil is at the center of everything we do and it’s a big part of how agriculture intersects with climate change.
This renewed focus on the health of soils is a great thing. I mean, who wants unhealthy soils? The good news is that by working to make soils as healthy and productive as possible, those of us in agriculture can play a positive role in mitigating climate change. If we could increase the organic matter of soils we are sequestering additional carbon, which is generally viewed as a step in the right direction. Now what’s not clear is exactly how we do that considering geography, cultural practices, soil type, cropping patterns and then be able to do that at scale. What are the economic incentives for a farmer or landowner? If agriculture wants to participate in the value created in cap and trade systems, we have to nail the answers to some questions.
How do we quantify and measure what is occurring? How do we assure those who are buying offsets that the carbon being sequestered will stay there for any period of time?
These are just a few of the important, practical questions the industry is wrestling with today.
The focus on soil health in sustainability initiatives has never been higher. We have identified a set of practices that are moving us in the right direction. The Soil Health Partnership, an NCGA initiative supported by a multi-stakeholder coalition has made some significant advancements here, and is working very hard to scale, learn, inform, and keep the ball moving through a network of demonstration farms.
The Context Network is working with clients to put dirt to work in mitigating climate change. Stay tuned. More progress is coming.
Let’s talk: firstname.lastname@example.org