Episode 161. Soil Carbon Goes Deeper and Really Hot Rocks

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 25th of March 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Today’s first post comes Eimhin David Callanan on the Facebook page Irish Regenerative Land Trust entitled: Researcher sees huge carbon sink in soil minerals.

As you can guess, I find this material to be very exciting.


A Washington State University researcher has discovered that vast amounts of carbon can be stored by soil minerals more than a foot below the surface. The finding could help offset the rising greenhouse-gas emissions helping warm the Earth’s climate. Credit: Biogeochemistry Letters

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That’s from 30 cms down for those on the new money. This is enlightening. I had assumed from my research that the top layer, the “A” horizon is geological terms, was the powerhouse of recarbonising the soil. It turns out this research shows the effect goes much deeper.

Given that much agricultural land is now almost subsoil flooded with oil based fertilisers, a variation on hydroponics in some sense, then this research shows even greater promise. With the correct approach, focusing on regenerative grazing, that is, using stock to trample as much feed as they eat, will release huge amounts of humic acid in short order, agriculturally speaking. The humic acid builds topsoil from whatever is growing the pasture. The key element in this exercise is time. The pastures once hit hard with grazing pressures must be left to recover. This is the system we are implementing on our place. I’ve been using four geese on about 500 square metres, an eighth of an acre for some two months. They have not been sufficient to heavily crush the pasture but they are doing it. I toss wheat to them each day on the next patch I want worked over. They have taken to working that part of the field and then resting, and manuring, on the compost heap. A win/win situation. They receive warmth and I receive more poop in the compost. As a layer builds up I place a few sheets of cardboard on top and the geese deal with that.

Yesterday, we collected two piglets. They are in the next field of 500 square metres. They will be ten weeks old tomorrow. Not big yet but doing stellar work already. As they grow the effect they have on each of the 500 square metre fields they will be rotated through. They are a test run at this stage. If they work and they seem to be, we’ll bump up the numbers and the get a much larger freezer, obviously.

Back to the post,


Earlier research by Kramer found that certain farming practices can dramatically increase carbon in the soil. Writing in Nature Communications in 2015, Kramer documented how three farms converted to management-intensive grazing practices raised their carbon levels to those of native forest soils in just six years. While cultivation has decreased soil carbon levels by one-half to two-thirds, the soils he examined had a 75 percent increase in carbon.

“I would call it radical, anytime you can get that much carbon in the system that quickly,” Kramer said.

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That’s an amazing set of stats. 

A return to the idea of grain production as part of a rotation, based upon building soil health through grazing, And grazing more than one species is even better. Cattle followed by sheep/horses and then chicken tractors would work well before some no-till wheat/corn and whatever your particular choice of grain would be. Even field beans before the cereal would be a workable solution. Of course, some places can’t be used for grain production. These would just be carbon sinks used for meat and/or fleece production. In really rough country goats could begin the rotation or even replace the cattle. It’s all about understanding the local micro climate. 

The research is in. It seems to be positive. Go out and test it. Use what we know to be best practice but do it in a way which does not lead to bankruptcy. Small test areas expanded as positive results come in or that are adjusted as less than optimal results are produced.

The floods in Mozambique and the US midwest this month, the southern Summer’s heat waves, the northern winter’s arctic storms, all point to a need to get our acts together. More on the experiments/trials being run on our humble little space will be published here and on the blog. I hope it helps but more importantly I hope it leads others to taking action.

To do this takes an ability to hold your nerve. Mrs World Organic News advanced a fairly persuasive set of arguments for slashing the paddocks when all around us were doing so too. I argued that what we were doing was growing organic matter mass and that it would all be good, we just had to follow the plan. A drawback of this plan was its location: inside my head. The effects of the geese are now visible, I’ll follow up their work with chicken tractors and then winter legumes, fava beans and peas. Small and steady, gently treatment of the soil. 

A final quote from the post:


Knowing more about how soil stores carbon can open the door to new techniques that will entrain carbon deep into the soil while continuing to produce food and fiber.

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The post points to the other part of the show’s tagline: Decarbonise the air.

Renewable thermal solution provides green alternative for gas-hungry industries from the site Renew Economy.


A novel blend of old and new technology is helping Australian researchers combine renewable energy and low-cost thermal storage to deliver heat for industrial processes.

Developed at the University of South Australia in Adelaide, the method involves using low cost renewable energy such as wind or solar PV to power electrical elements that heat rocks in a similar way to a sauna.

The element and rocks are packed inside a stainless steel tank and heat air pushed through the tank with an ambient fan. The temperature of the exiting air can be simply adjusted between 200C and 700C by changing the fan speed.

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Almost a head slappingly obvious solution. Rocks! Who’d have thunk it? For those of you who don’t know about South Australia it is located in the middle of the continent, ease/west and on the southern coast. Winds pour down off the central deserts in Summer to create what would be heat waves anywhere else but what South Australians call Summer. It is not surprising then that hot rocks is a thing they’re researching. The permaculture idea of starting with what you have. 

Anyway the research is at the proof of concept stage and that proof has been achieved. By separating the heat generation from the storage system allows any number of renewable options for the heat generation. The hot rocks like a sauna but a sauna on roids is an elegant solution.

A system that shows much promise and could be implemented quickly.

And quickly is what we need now.

And on that note I’ll draw this episode to a conclusion.

Remember: Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

The podcasting checklists are still available over at Jon Moore Podcasting Services

Thank you for listening and I’ll be back next week.



email: redocean112@gmail.com


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The Irish Generative Land Trust


Researcher sees huge carbon sink in soil minerals


Renewable thermal solution provides green alternative for gas-hungry industries


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