Dangerous levels of carbon in Earth’s atmosphere derive not only from burning fossil fuels, but also from land use changes. In fact, some scientists estimate that two-thirds of the excess carbon in the atmosphere derive from land-use changes such as clearing forests for agriculture and tilling the soil; with every tillage pass, a portion of a soil’s organic matter (which is 57% carbon) is converted to CO2 along with some of the soil’s fixed nitrogen, which is converted to N2O (a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2).
The good news is– with changes to farming, ranching and gardening practices, we can reverse the global trend of soil carbon losses and instead return atmospheric carbon back to the soil. Building soil carbon / soil health increases the profitability and climate resilience of farms by making soils more drought and erosion resistant while reducing input needs. And, it is a climate change mitigation strategy that simultaneously increases the security of our watersheds, ecosystems and food systems. In NOFA communities across the Northeast, we are teaching growers and land managers of all scales how to adapt their practices to increase the health of crops, farms, people and the planet.