Soil restoration is the process of improving the structure, microbial life, nutrient density, and overall carbon levels of soil. Many human endeavors – conventional farming chief among them – have depleted the Earth to the extent that nutrient levels in almost every kind of food have fallen by between 10 and 100 percent in the past 70 years. Soil quality can improve dramatically, though, when farmers and gardeners maintain constant ground cover, increase microbe populations, encourage biological diversity, reduce the use of agricultural chemicals, and avoid tillage.
There are 5 key principles:
- Green is good — and year-round green is even better
- Microbes matter
- Diversity is indispensable
- Chemical use can be dangerous
- Avoid aggressive tillage
All food and fiber producers — whether grain, beef, milk, lamb, wool, cotton, sugar, nuts, fruit, vegetables, flowers, hay, silage, or timber — are first and foremost light farmers.
Since the Industrial Revolution, human activities have sadly resulted in significantly less photosynthetic capacity due to the reduced area of green groundcover on the Earth’s surface. Human activity has also impacted the photosynthetic rate of the groundcover that remains.
Our role, in the community of living things of which we are part, is to ensure that the way we manage green plants results in as much light energy as possible being transferred to — and maintained in — the soil battery as stable soil carbon. Increasing the level of soil carbon improves farm productivity, restores landscape function, reduces the impact of anthropogenic emissions, and increases resilience to climatic variability.
It is not so much a matter of how much carbon can be sequestered by any particular method in any particular place, but rather how much soil is sequestering carbon. If all agricultural, garden, and public lands were a net sink for carbon, we could easily reduce enough CO2 to counter emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
Everyone benefits when soils are a net carbon sink. Through our food choices and farming and gardening practices we all have the opportunity to influence how soil is managed. Profitable agriculture, nutrient-dense food, clean water, and vibrant communities can be ours… if that is what we choose.
Credit: Eco Farming Daily