Agriculture and the Carbon Cycle

Understanding the Carbon Cycle and Life:
Proper Farming Techniques Can Reverse Global Warming

by Malcolm Beck

The Carbon Cycle Includes Putting Carbon Back into the Soil

In Nature everything cycles. Tides ebb and flow, plants grow and decay, storms come and go. Summer fades into winter then spring revives the Earth once more. It is all part of the natural rhythm of life.

Man, because of his numbers and knowledge, now has the ability to alter some of these cycles. Too much carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels has drawn the attention of scientists.

Apparently this excess is causing global warming, which could change our weather patterns and drastically affect our lives. The scientists are looking to technology for answers while completely ignoring Nature’s balancing processes.

Nature’s carbon cycle has the answer. Why don’t we consult her?

Using green plants and sunlight, Nature has been sequestering carbon in the soil since the beginning. The pores, on the leaves of plants, take in CO2 and separate the carbon from the oxygen then release the oxygen to the air.

Then the plants combine the carbon with hydrogen to make carbohydrates an energy source for all higher life. Eighty percent of the carbohydrates are sent to the under ground portion of the plant where it feeds a whole metroplex of beneficial soil life that live in the root zone which help the plants collect moisture and minerals to make food for itself and all higher life.

This is the natural carbon cycle.

This carbon cycle diagram shows the storage an...
Image via Wikipedia

We can assist Nature in the carbon sequestering process. We have a lot of raw materials to work with.

The total land area in the continental US is 1.9 billion acres. Cropland accounts for 455 million acres of that and grassland pasture is 578 million acres.

When this country was first settled (by the white man), all the cropland and rangeland had a soil organic content ranging from 3 to 8 percent. Today the organic content of most of this land is down to less than one-fourth of what it once was. In some locations, the soil organic content is down to less than two tenths of one percent (<0.2%).

According to Discover Magazine, humans churn out 8 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year worldwide. These 8 billion tons could be captured and put back into the soil if we operated our farms, ranches, ball fields, lawns and gardens with practices that increase and maintain the organic material in the soil, utilizing the carbon cycle.

One acre of land 6 inches deep weighs about 2 million pounds. When a soil lab does an organic matter test, they burn off the humus to determine the organic content. (In soil, everything organic will burn; the minerals just sit there. Weight loss from burning is a way to determine how much organic material exists in the soil.)

Each one percent of organic matter in the soil represents approximately 5,400 pounds of Carbon (C).

If oxidized by improper tillage and over use of chemical, carbon-free fertilizers, the carbon cycle would release to the air about 20,000 pounds – or 10 tons – of Carbon Dioxide. This oxidation occurs routinely with conventional farm practices.

There are many ways to help control the CO2 released into the air. Adding organic material to the soil is a very important way because so much of the land’s mass is devoted to farming and ranching. If soil is mulched, rarely tilled, and has plants growing, the loss of carbon from the soil in the form of CO2 is dramatically decreased.

If we increased the organic content of just our cropland in the U.S. a puny one percent, we would take 4.55 billions tons (over half of what the world generates annually) of CO2 out of the air and return it to the soil.

Green plants using the energy from the sun have the power to do this.

Next >>> The Carbon Sink

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