Good morning. This is Bob Bragg. Welcome to the July 23rd edition of Farm News and Views.
The increasing level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is often blamed for a changing climate around the globe. Many scientists believe that combustion of fossil fuels and the decline of forests are factors in the increase of CO2 levels by 100 parts per million since 1950. But farming practices that have resulted in depleted organic material in crop fields are also sited as a factor for this spike in CO2. Soil scientists have recorded from a 20 to 50% reduction of carbon in soils that have been tilled for decades versus soils that have been undisturbed. Additional carbon is lost when wind and water erosion carry soils particles off of fields. So soil scientists have concluded that carbon sequestration in farm fields and grazing lands can reduce and even reverse the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Recently, several companies are ramping up to encourage farmers and ranchers to participate in practices that will result in increasing soil organic matter in their fields, using a marketplace developed around CO2 mitigation that enables CO2-emitting industries to purchase carbon credits from businesses engaged in offsetting activities. For example, Boston-based Indigo Agriculture recently unveiled its latest project, the Terraton Initiative, which intends to sequester 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by providing momentary incentives to farmers and ranchers who adopt regenerative agriculture practices. The company contends that if farmers increase the level of carbon in their soils by an average of 0.5% globally, it could reverse the 1-trillion-ton increase in atmospheric carbon since the Industrial Revolution. Some of the practices that Indigo encourages farmers to adopt include no-till crop production, crop rotation, reducing reliance on chemical and synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and incorporating livestock. The Western Sustainability Exchange is another organization that’s attempting to enroll Montana ranchers in a program that will pay them to use a carefully managed, rotational grazing program that will qualify for the carbon credit market. Rotational grazing calls for moving livestock based on utilization of forage over a short period of time by intensive grazing, then moving the herd to a new section of range or pasture that has not been grazed until it has full recovered from previous grazing passes.