Top Soil and Civilization. You Need the Former to Keep the Latter

May 19, 2022

When White settlers reached the Great Plains, topsoils were in the range of 6 feet deep.

Now it’s more like 6 inches, with a large portion of it blown away or flushed down the Mississippi to create a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, the size of Massachusetts.
Sequestering carbon in soils is potentially an important puzzle piece in decarbonizing the economy.

Farmers Weekly:

“Weaponising soils” to boost carbon sequestration is part of Somerset dairy Yeo Valley’s long-term plans to fight climate change, while producing nutritious, healthy food.

The organic dairy brand has set itself the target of increasing soil carbon by 25% in the next 40 years at its two dairies in Blagdon, Somerset.

By doing so, the farms will carry a net carbon footprint of zero, which will help to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the brand.

Farming is a key area for attention since it is responsible for 74% of the business’s total carbon footprint.

In 2020, Yeo Valley Farms, with the help of the Farm Carbon Toolkit (FCT), sampled their 809ha (2,000 acres) of farmland to get an indication of soil carbon levels.

Their reasoning was linked to figures from Iowa State University, which showed soils store more carbon than the atmosphere and all of the world’s plants and forests combined.

Tim Mead, director of Yeo Valley Farms, says it is important to recognise this “huge climate asset”, determine base level carbon stocks and ways to raise them.

With one-third more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than 60 years ago, he believes regenerative agriculture is part of the solution to reversing climate change.

Regenerative farming is focused on agricultural practices that build soil health and increase biodiversity and water cycling with the aim of fighting climate change.

Raising soil organic matter is one way to bolster soil’s carbon storage potential, while also bringing production benefits.

Becky Willson, business development and technical director for FCT, says: “There is a really nice link [between] soil organic matter, soil organic carbon, soil resilience and soil health.” (See “The numbers”).

This means building organic matter and carbon can help with factors such as nutrient cycling, water infiltration and production of quality forage.

3 Responses to “Top Soil and Civilization. You Need the Former to Keep the Latter”

  1. Gingerbaker Says:

    “When White settlers reached the Great Plains, topsoils were in the range of 6 feet deep.”

    Because large ruminants were grazing and trampling those soils for many years. Properly grazed grasslands can sequester five times the carbon of mature forests per unit area according to experts.

    Surprising, until one realizes that when you look at a forest, what you see is a large part of the carbon sequestered for a period of 100 years. When you look at a grassland, you see one of many crops per year, with most of the sequestered carbon underground.

    One of the reasons why the UN Food and Agricultural Organization deems livestock as integral not only to our food systems, but also to our environmental future.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      What percentage of grazed grasslands are properly grazed grasslands?

      What organization has the power to enforce proper grazing?

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:


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