Episode 226. We Need a Regeneration Revolution

This is the World Organic News for the week ending 11th of  August 2020.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Soil

Today we’re going to discuss regeneration in particular regeneration of the soil and ecosystems. Over the last 50 to 75 years, basically since the second world war we’ve gone through a period of destruction. In effect a faustian bargain in which we gave up 1% of our topsoil every year in return for production returns. Continue reading “Episode 226. We Need a Regeneration Revolution”

Episode 182. What The Hell is Soil Carbon?

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 19th of August 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

This week I’m going to address the question that is this episode’s title. This was triggered by a conversation I overheard on the question and it left me speechless. The level of misunderstanding was something I felt needed to be addressed because soil carbon is so important to the process of reversing excessive CO2 in the atmosphere. So if we are to do this we really should have thorough knowledge of what’s involved.

So from the NSW DPI we have a factsheet entitled: Key soil carbon messages.

Quote:

Soil organic carbon is a vital component of productive agriculture, but there are many myths and misconceptions about it. 

End Quote

Let’s get to it. There are nine things listed in this factsheet but there are just five things we need to understand:

  1. Soil is a significant carbon sink. 
  2. Increasing soil organic matter can improve productivity by improving soil structure, increasing nutrient cycling and encouraging diversity of soil organisms. 
  3. Farm productivity is closely linked to soil functions that depend on decomposition of organic matter. 
  4. To increase the amount of carbon stored in soil, carbon-based inputs need to be greater than the losses. If the balance isn’t right then the amount of carbon in soil is depleted. 
  5. Many soils have the potential to store a large mass of carbon.

Starting with #1 Soil is a significant carbon sink. 

The carbon cycle has been a part of the biosphere since the first arrival of life on the planet. The thing I’ve noticed with natural systems is this: The more complex the system is the more stable it becomes. It is because the carbon cycle has been around for so long that it complexity has, to some extent, protected us from the practices we have been following. Much carbon can be and was stored in the soils of the world. We can return to this state but we need to do it in a way that actually works. It turns out to be relatively straightforward, once we more our mindset away from artificial fertilisers to feeding the soil.

#2. Increasing soil organic matter can improve productivity by improving soil structure, increasing nutrient cycling and encouraging diversity of soil organisms.

By increasing and maintaining soil carbon we actually create better, more productive soils. This is old knowledge. The point of most farming systems prior to WW2 was to conserve and increase the amount of soil carbon. It wasn’t called that, it was called humus or humic acid. The humus is fed by the detritus of production, by the results of growing crops, of feeding plant material through animals and by producing compost. I would refer you to a book available online for free called Ten Acres Enough. Link in the show notes. The author is fanatical about collecting organic matter. He sends his farm hand out to collect fallen leaves in Autumn from roadsides. He bought in calf cows prior to winter, housed them and collected their droppings in huge piles of compost. The cows with calves at foot were sold in Spring with a huge amount of manure available for the growing season. He does have some strange ideas about bare soil attracting rain but we can allow some leeway for a book written in the 1870s.

#3 Farm productivity is closely linked to soil functions that depend on decomposition of organic matter. 

This is a key point. The decomposition of organic matter feeds the microbes that create the humus. By doing this in an organic way, we continual feed the soil. The microbes in the soil feed the plants. There are a couple of ways to do this. Cover crops, green manures are plant based ways but putting organic matter through animals speeds the process no end. This the difference between John Jeavons and the Grow Biointensive method and John Seymour’s animal based production system. Either way you end up with organic matter for the soil to incorporate into itself. Both Jeavons and Seymour are soil turners but the easiest way to get material into the soil is to pile it on top. The natural systems look after the rest.

If we go the chemical route then year on year more chemicals are needed as each application burns through humus. Once the humus is gone, growing is more like hydroponics in dirt rather than letting the soil do the growing for us. Simples.

#4 To increase the amount of carbon stored in soil, carbon-based inputs need to be greater than the losses. If the balance isn’t right then the amount of carbon in soil is depleted.

This is a little self evident. The systems employed must put back more than they take. Masanobu Fukuoka developed such a system. Link to his book The One Straw Revolution is in the show notes. His system comes down to some simple principles:

  1. No digging
  2. No weeding
  3. No artificial fertiliser
  4. No pesticides or herbicides

These things are simple, they might not necessarily be easy to get our heads around but they are essentially easy to implement, it just takes creative thinking. No, really.

#5 Many soils have the potential to store a large mass of carbon.

This cannot be overstated. In colonised countries, native soils held much more organic matter than they do now. After all the indigenous peoples didn’t have access to chemical fertilisers and managed to survive quite happily for centuries before Europeans arrived. In the case of Australia, 60 millennia, at least. So there’s a huge a hole in the carbon cycle which we can refill, quickly. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the site Journey to Forever has a really great compost page and I have a favourite quote from this page:

Quote:

It’s estimated that a human with a compost fork and a watering-can, carefully piling up organic matter with the correct C/N ratio, water content and aeration so that it cooks away at high temperatures and emits jets of steam, can make as much topsoil in a year as nature can make in a century. 

End Quote

This is how we suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and recreate soils producing food fit for human consumption.

We can do this, we must do this, probably yesterday but today will be good enough!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Of course if you’d like to join the movement to recarbonise the soil or you know someone who would, our online conference: RegenEarth 2019: Living Soils ~ Backyard Regen would be a great place to start. Over 300 years of accumulated knowledge and experiences from our presenters over three night’s, covering everything from compost to seed saving to no-dig gardens all for just $67 AUD. There are links in the show notes. We’d love to see there in September from the 16th to the 19th.

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

~~~~

LINKS

The RegenEarth 2019 Online Conference ~ Living Soil

email: regen@regenearth.net

Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.

WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here

Permaculture Plus

Topical Talks

Key soil carbon messages

https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/428851/key-soil-carbon-messages.pdf

Ten Acres Enough

The One Straw Revolution

Journey to Forever has a really great compost page

161. Soil Carbon Goes Deeper and Really Hot Rocks.

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.
Quote:
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
End Quote
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,
Quote:
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.
End Quote
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:
Quote:
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.
End Quote
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.
Quote:
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.
End Quote
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.

~~~~

LINKS
email: redocean112@gmail.com
PODCASTING CHECKLISTS CLICK HERE
Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.
WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here
Permaculture Plus
http://permacultureplus.com.au/
Topical Talks
 
The Irish Generative Land Trust
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1924333924527282/
Researcher sees huge carbon sink in soil minerals
https://m.phys.org/news/2017-11-huge-carbon-soil-minerals.html?fbclid=IwAR2Zqnt5ZhNaTVOeybwbrU07zk6skR_G5y4j3jE_1Ddvmng2mwjP_4quUrQ
Renewable thermal solution provides green alternative for gas-hungry industries
https://reneweconomy.com.au/renewable-thermal-solution-provides-green-alternative-for-gas-hungry-industries-12919/

145. Replay of episode 117: Biodynamics and Soil Carbon With Mark Rathbone

LINKS

MASTERMIND GROUP: worlorganicnews.com/mastermind-application

PODCASTING CHECKLISTS CLICK HERE

Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.

WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here

Permaculture Plus

http://permacultureplus.com.au/

 

Save Our Soil

http://www.saveoursoil.com.au/

Bio-Soil

https://www.biosoil.net.au/

Demeter Australia

http://www.demeter.org.au/

Biodynamics UK Certification

http://bdcertification.org.uk/

Demeter USA

http://www.demeter-usa.org/

Biodynamic Marketing Australia

https://biodynamic.com.au/

Biodynamic Preparation 500 (Video)

https://youtu.be/tiMMoqngdt0

 

Remember: Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

So with all the above in mind and the fact we live in the twenty first century, I’m opening up applications for a Regenerative Agriculture Mastermind group. It will be limited to twelve people, we’ll meet weekly, online to discuss our successes, challenges and decisions. The wisdom of the crowd applied to this necessary field of endeavour. You can have a look at the intro page and click through to the application at worlorganicnews.com/mastermind-application There’s also a link in the show notes.

Of course the podcasting checklists are still available over at mrjonmoore.com

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

Episode 36: Thistles, A Change of Attitude & A Soil Ethic!

This is the World Organic News podcast catch up episode.

Jon Moore reporting!

Well at long last the voice is back, sort of and I have some thoughts to catch up on and some housekeeping too.

Housekeeping first. A heartfelt thanks to Angry Genghis for the review on iTunes. Really, thank you so much. I might point out though that I’m not in New Zealand but in Australia. The wonder of the interwebs is the dissolution of borders and the possibility of direct conversations across the globe. If anyone is doing interesting things out there and would like to be interviewed, drop me a line at: podcast@worldorganicnews.com. Continue reading “Episode 36: Thistles, A Change of Attitude & A Soil Ethic!”

Episode 33: Factory Farming, Climate Change, Seed Saving, Soil Carbon & Ancient Barley.

This is the World Organic News Podcast for the week ending 19th of September 2016.

Jon Moore reporting!

This week we focus on Climate Change. The blog truth-out.org has a post on the evils of factory farming entitled: Time to Drive Factory-Farmed Food Off the Market. Not only do they point out the need for this form of industrialised production to end, they point out to a way forward:

Quote:

Millions of Americans are rejecting Big Food’s tainted fare, voting with their consumer dollars for healthier, humane, environmental- and climate-friendly foods and products. Our job as consumer advocates is to move organic and regenerative food and farming, including meat, dairy and eggs, from being a niche market to being the dominant force in US and world agriculture. 

End Quote Continue reading “Episode 33: Factory Farming, Climate Change, Seed Saving, Soil Carbon & Ancient Barley.”