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Carbon Farming

Thanks to Ranunculus for telling me about this.

(apologies for the random font and size changes.  It happens when I cut and paste bits and I can't work out how to make it all the same)

Carbon farming looks like a really interesting set of techniques.

in a nutshell - Carbon Farming involves implementing practices that are known to improve the rate at which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and converted to plant material and/or soil organic matter.

One of the basic techniques is to spread compost on low-fertility rangeland. the compost encourages grass growth, the grass increases the amount of organic matter in the soil, which takes carbon from the atmosphere and adds it to the soil.
With more organic matter, the moisture holding capacity of the soil increases, and this encourages more plants to grows, etc.

There are lots more techniques - 'no dig' is very important as ploughing causes a lot of carbon to be lost from the soil. Seed drills are part of the solution.  Other things include techniques to reduce erosion, so planting wind breaks, encouraging vegetation on river banks, wetland restoration, etc.  

If you live in the USA
 and want to donate to the Carbon Project (which is actively researching these techniques), then donations are (currently) exempt from Federal tax.  (In other word, if you want to help some genuine science which has the potential to lock up carbon and improve soil quality at the same time, do it quickly before the president decides to try and stop it)

I just tried to send them some money, but I'm having problems with Avast Passwords and I'm not recovered well enough from the asthama to have the mental energy to struggle finding my Paypal password.  (I can remember my Avast master password, but  Avast is causing other screw ups...)

There's also a partner project called Fibreshed that aims to produce carbon neutral yarn.

Fascinating stuff all round and a rare glimmer of hope on the environmental front.
This entry was originally posted on Dreamwidth where it has comment count unavailable comments.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 6th, 2017 08:45 am (UTC)
I had a look and was frustrated that no-one said how much a half-inch of compost weighed per hectare, so you could compare its carbon content, and calculate the energy need to truck it in. I also came across this about Austrailan efforts, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/29/carbon-farming-its-a-nice-theory-but-dont-get-your-hopes-up

It it works its great, but as always the devil's in the detail.

I hate it when cut and paste in a browser preserves formatting. What I do is cut and paste via a vanilla notepad like editor to get rid of it.
Feb. 6th, 2017 12:05 pm (UTC)
The Australian example isn't a good comparison. That was working on crop land. The US example here is rangeland. It's land that is too poor for crops. Thus you don't have the continual removal of organic matter from cropping. There's no tilling either.

I agree with you about nutrients. The reason the US one appears to work is because the soils are basically gravels washed down from poor rock. They are very nutrient poor -thus adding nutrients makes them capable of growing far more grass. As long as the nutrients are locked into the cycle it should be good - but I don't know how tightly they are bound. Will they be good for decades or centuries? It's an important question.
Feb. 6th, 2017 05:42 pm (UTC)
Hmm. With my geologist hat on... the trouble with all these "oooh we can turn CO2 into plants" schemes is that they ignore several important facts.

1. Fossil fuels turn ROCKS into CO2 and release it to the atmosphere and ocean.
2. Plants turn CO2 from atmosphere & ocean into biomass, but only for the lifetime of the plant. If you are growing an oak tree which will live 200 years, then yeah, maybe. Something which dies back each winter or gets grazed down by herbivores - nope, no use.
3. To really remove the CO2 you have to get it out of the atmosphere/ocean permanently - turn it back into rocks.

So chop down those oak trees, weight down the trunks and sink them into a nice deep and anoxic (low or no oxygen) bit of the sea. Black Sea might be a candidate. Or into a deep ocean trench. There's plenty oxygen down there, but might take a long time to recycle the tree trunks as there won't be many bugs adapted to digesting wood down.

Or find some way to make coral reefs go berserk, grab oceanic CO2 and turn it into limestone. (Not holding out much hope for that, given the state of the world's reefs).

I think about the geological timescales it took to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and (eventually) turn it into fossil fuels. Then I think about how fast we've shoved it all back into the atmosphere. Then I think about crying.
Feb. 8th, 2017 08:52 am (UTC)
If I'm reading it correctly, the aim here is to turn CO2 into soil.

But I'm with you on the rest of it.

We have a chance of a habitable biosphere in a hundred years time, but I wouldn't say that it's a good chance...
Feb. 8th, 2017 09:19 am (UTC)
Have a look at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6fIXznrh5k and give me your opinion.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


Judith Proctor


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