January 6, 2023 4:27:01 PM PST January 6, 2023 4:27:01 PM PSTth, January 6, 2023 4:27:01 PM PST
A major key to both farming profitability and pollution-solutions
Our Planet's Metabolic Network
Fungi - one of our planet's first life forms - by creating soil from minerals in rocks, made it possible for plants and animals to evolve. These same fungal networks act as carbon sinks and make carbon farming great for both farmers and the environment. They trade nutrients that they pull from the soil and give them to plants and trees in exchange for the carbon the trees and plants pull from the atmosphere. According to Berta Bago1 of the American Society of Plant Biologists, mycorrhizal fungal networks determine the flow of up to 5 billion tons of carbon worldwide each year. Trees and plants need these networks for nutrients and water. The fungi need the trees and plants to supply the carbon they require. These networks also help plants fight off pests, reduce or prevent the need for chemical fertilizers and insecticides, improve plant health, and increase harvests.
Healthy soil requires healthy microbes and healthy microbes require a good moisture range - not too wet and not too dry. For these reasons, better irrigation systems not only save time and increase yields, they also help prevent erosion, forest fires, and desertification while preventing and mitigating pollution.
Benefits of Healthy Soil
- Prevents erosion
- Prevents forest fires
- Prevents desertification
- Increases plant life
- Increases harvest yield
- Increases crop health
- Increases carbon sequestration
- Makes carbon credit farming practical
History of Carbon Dioxide’s Increase
The modern record of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels began with observations recorded at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. This graph shows the station's monthly average carbon dioxide measurements since 1960 in parts per million (ppm). The seasonal cycle of highs and lows (small peaks and valleys) is driven by summertime growth and winter decay of Northern Hemisphere vegetation. The long-term trend of rising carbon dioxide levels is driven by human activities.
NOAA Climate.gov image, based on data from NOAA Global Monitoring Lab2.
Something We Can All Do
What is carbon farming? Stopping carbon emissions with renewable energy, electric cars, and conservation represent important steps but they aren't enough. Since the Industrial Revolution began in 1750, our carbon legacy load has increased by over 1000 billion tons of CO2 going into the atmosphere. Because healthy soil and strong microbe networks represent our best allies in reversing this negative momentum, the more each of us can do to nurture these networks, the more helpful we can become. And because these networks are so vast, everything we do that helps keep moisture in the soil has a much bigger impact than what we probably imagine.
So use a drip system, collect rainwater, reuse your gray water, mulch, grow a garden, cover crops, houseplants, vegetables, and perennials. Your efforts might look small on the surface but think about all those vast fungal networks just under our feet. And don't forget all the farming carbon credits available now. See our ever-growing list of available Water Funding Resources.
“This is a race against time. We are nervous these fungal communities are disappearing before we can even document who is there.” - Dr. Toby Kiers, evolutionary biologist in NY Times, 12/26/2002