Soil health: Combatting climate change from the ground up
Published: October 2, 2019
Category: Regenerative Agriculture, The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter
Midwestern floods and drought in the western and southeastern U.S. are signs of a growing “new normal” in climate impacts—challenging farmers and scientists to come up with a sustainable solution that creates more resilient farms.
Creating healthier soil is garnering serious attention; ten states this year have initiated soil management policies including cover crops, diversified crop rotations, reduced tillage, and compost and manure utilization. They are looking to tax exemptions, technological assistance, and grant money to incentivize farmers to make some changes.
“When soil is healthy… it can be part of the climate solution,” said Karen Perry Stillerman, a senior analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists. Added plusses of strong soil include ability to store water and carbon, improve water quality, reduce runoff, and help meet nutrition needs of a growing population.
Cover crop acreage increased by 50% from 2012 and 2017, helping keep soil temperatures down and enriching soil biology.
With farmer incomes down, commodity prices low, and a trade war with China ongoing, assistance is needed.
“Given the economic conditions… it’s very difficult to find extra money for those kinds of investments,” said Nebraska farmer Ben Steffen.
California has introduced 35 soil health bills; 15 have passed. Nebraska, New Mexico, and Maryland have passed bills. Colorado representative Joe Neguse sponsored a bill requiring the Department of Agriculture to conduct a soil health study on federal land. Experts hope that the state-level momentum will spur action at the federal level.
Source: Pew Charitable Trusts
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