This five-year study from Michigan State University shows that regenerative grazing practices resulted in significant net reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Scientists measured total methane and carbon emissions from a regenerative grazing operation. They also measured increases in organic matter and nitrogen in the soil. They compared their data to findings from prior studies on cattle feedlots (CAFO’S). The analysis showed a significant reduction in greenhouse gas omissions under the regenerative grazing system. The soil absorb enough carbon to cancel out methane emissions.
“The carbon sequestration rate allowed us to turn a carbon positive into a carbon negative compared to the most common management system in the finishing face.” -Paige Stanley, lead researcher, MSU
“Regenerative grazing provides ‘countless other ecosystem services including improved biodiversity, erosion control, increased soil water holding capacity, and greater drought resilience.’”-Christine Jones, Soil Ecologist
Read the study here:
“The world is warming not only because fossil fuels are being burned, but also because soils, forests and wetlands are being ravaged. In recent years, some scientists have begun to ask whether we can put some of that carbon back into the soil and into living ecosystems, like grasslands and forests. This notion, known as carbon farming, has gained traction as it becomes clear that simply reducing emissions will not sufficiently limit global warming.”
“Carbon farming’s fundamental conceit is that if we change how we treat this land, we could turn huge areas of the earth’s surface into a carbon sponge. Instead of relying solely on technology to remove greenhouse gases from the air, we could harness an ancient and natural process, photosynthesis, to pump carbon into what’s called the pedosphere, the thin skin of living soil at the earth’s surface. If adopted widely enough, such practices could, in theory, begin to remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, nudging us toward a less perilous climate trajectory than our current one.”
“In a 2016 paper, Pete Smith, a soil scientist at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and the influential climate scientist James Hansen argued that land-management practices are one of the few affordable options available today for drawing down carbon. “What’s surprising to me is that we’ve not done it sooner,” says Smith, who is also a lead author on a recent U.N. report that explores carbon-dioxide-removal technologies. “This has the potential to make a huge difference.”
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A closer look at revolutionary ideas that will shape the future of farming.
“What Dorn discovered at Rodale was a way to do organic no-till agriculture. The practice was developed by Jeff Moyer, the institute’s longtime farm director, who came up with an innovative way to combine the two farming systems. It began as many good ideas do—by accident…”
“As developed by Moyer and colleagues, there are four basic steps to organic no-till:
1. Protect the soil and keep down the weeds in a farm field by planting a winter-hardy cover crop in the fall, such as vetch, barley, wheat, rye, or oats.
2. When the cover crop reaches maturity in the spring, the farmer knocks it down with a roller-crimper.
3. The farmer plants a cash crop into the crimped cover crop with a no-till drill, usually at the same time as crimping (crimper in front of the tractor, drill pulled behind), and then the cash crop grows up through the crimped cover crop.
4. After harvest in the fall, the organic residue of both crops can be disked into the soil, if the farmer wants, as next year’s cover crop is planted. All together, the use of a cover crop and a roller-crimper creates a dense mat of organic material on the soil surface that smothers weeds while providing nutrients, shade, and moisture to the cash crop.
Dorn jumped at the idea. He thought it literally rolled the best ideas in agriculture together: organic production, no-till, and a positive energy balance (this method requires only two passes with a tractor in contrast to the ten or twelve needed in a conventional system). “
Patagonia Provisions along with Dr. Bonner’s, Rodale Institute and a number of leaders in the organic industry, spent the past year working on a regenerative organic certification program.
“Regenerative organic agriculture can rebuild topsoil, reduce pollution from chemicals and sequester the carbon that causes climate change—all at the same time. In 2014, researchers at the Rodale Institute estimated that if current farmland shifted to regenerative organic practices, 100% of annual global CO2 emissions could be sequestered in the soil.”
“We are focused on bringing together the best science on regenerative practices with the best practices for social fairness and animal compassion. Our goal is to support and strengthen the USDA organic label, not undermine it in any way. We absolutely respect and support USDA organic and fundamentally don’t believe you can do regenerative without organic.”
But the brands and farmers meeting these standards often feel “like scouts with a sash full of merit badges,” says Jeff Moyer, president of the Rodale Institute, which advocates for organic farming practices. Rodale is one of a handful of organizations working with the natural soap brand Dr. Bronner’s and Patagonia to roll out a new sustainability standard, which Dr. Bronner’s president Mike Bronner calls “one standard to rule them all,” because it will incorporate best practices from pre-existing standards–as well as new criteria–into one certification.”
“When we look at global desertification playing a major role in climate change, there is simply no tool in the reductionist management framework that can sustain the cycle of life in grass plants over about two thirds of the world’s land.
These are the vast regions where the rainfall is seasonal and humidity erratic, were soils, soil life, plants and animals co-evolved including billions of large grazing animals and pack-hunting predators. We have no option but to include livestock as a tool with a change to Holistic Management to seriously address the major biological aspects of desertification and climate change. ”