FarmSense

(Part III) The Enchanting Region Between Seed and Shelf – An Introduction to Regenerative Agriculture and Biosequestration – A Multi-Part Series

Part III – Regenerative Agriculture – A Set It and Forget It Approach 

Continuing from Part I and Part II of our regenerative agriculture series…Here you are, seasoned to the ways of properly caring for your beloved shoes because as we know, they are the buffer between your feet and the earth. You’ve learned from your mistakes, no longer soaking them with a barrage of harsh chemicals at the mere sight of a stain. You recognize that oftentimes a light scrub with mild soap and water can be an equally effective means of cleaning dirty shoes. Gone are the days of collateral damage in your kitchen as you lambast dirt deposits with chemicals.

As you settle in for the evening, you remove your favorite pair of shoes, gently placing them in their designated area until they’re needed again. For some, that may be a custom-built, luxury closet shelf and for some, a light toss of their kicks near the front door may suffice. Regardless of your approach, we all share a similar aspect of — even if only for a fleeting moment — locking our eyes on our shoes at least once a day — otherwise, how would we ever acknowledge their condition. Remember, we’re in this to maintain the newness of our pair of prized shoes for as long as possible.

Sure — in theory we could probably take measures to maintain the appearance of our shoes until they have reached the end of their useful lifespan, but as we have learned, this is not exactly a sustainable approach. You ponder various methods to ensure that your shoes are free of dirt and debris at the end of each day, but you’re continually met with roadblocks. You could completely wash and dry your shoes daily but drop this idea due to time constraints. You could regularly spot-treat them with a bevy of chemicals but diagnosticate this approach as unsustainable due to the collateral damage from prior attempts. So, here you find yourself having an internal dialogue as you recline on the sofa — barefoot, of course — grasping for an epiphany that will solve your sneaker conundrum.

Perhaps it is the haunting glow of the television that fills the dim room as the sun sets for the day, casting a final wink over the horizon, almost as if it were welcoming the moon into the sky — or perhaps your inspiration is simply based on your newfound recognition that we as humans have a responsibility to promote environmental sustainability — after all, you have been reading about the impact of regenerative agriculture practices. Regardless of the why, something clicks and you begin to accept that your shoes don’t necessarily need to be flawless to remain functional.

“If only I could effortlessly remove some of the dirt before walking indoors,” you mutter under your breath, as if not to disturb the potted Monstera resting in the corner of the room. A second mental lightbulb begins to flicker, and you make your way to the coat closet, digging through unused items from hobbies and craft projects long abandoned. As hoped, you find what you’re searching for, a welcome mat that has never been given the opportunity to serve its purpose.

You proudly plop the mat by your front door and over the coming days, weeks, and months your once forgotten mat graciously welcomes you home as you scrub your feet across its surface before crossing your home’s threshold. As time progresses, the mat fills with dirt and debris captured from your shoes. Every so often, you carry the dirty mat to a patch of grass where you shake off the barely visible, but abundant particles of soil captured in its bristles — delivering the flecks and fragments back from whence they came, the earth.

Aside from utilizing a once forgotten welcome mat, you should also pat yourself on the back for being a micro-example of what environmentalists have labeled Biosequestration, which is the process of capturing and storing greenhouse gasses (or in your case, the dirt from your shoes) in a natural and sustainable manner. In many ways, natural resources like trees and soil serve as a welcome mat of sorts as well, sequestering the undesired byproducts of not only agriculture, but human existence. Let’s explore the potential impact this practice can have when utilized on scale with commercial agriculture.

Plants to the Rescue

Biological sequestration or Biosequestration is a naturally occurring process in which greenhouse gasses like CO2 are captured, absorbed, processed, and stored by plants (and ultimately soil). Unless the chemicals you’ve been cleaning your shoes with have caused memory loss, it is likely that you’ve at least heard an environmentalist or conservationist sounding the alarm around the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gasses (GHG). Although humans are large contributors to the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere, the primary culprit (CO2) is produced by all breathing animals and natural elements like volcanoes and geysers as well.

As you may be aware, atmospheric CO2 concentration levels are rising at a rate of roughly 2 ppm per year, with our current measure registering 416 ppm [1]. To put this into perspective, in the year 1750, the atmospheric CO2 concentration was only 280 ppm [1]. Considering that deforestation is believed to be responsible for nearly 20% of GHGs now entering the atmosphere, based on estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) [2], it is easy to understand why conservation efforts need to be expedited.

How Can We Promote Biosequestration?

It’s easy to look at the process of Biosequestration and feel as though your attempts to help will serve as futile efforts. Although Biosequestration is a long-term and large-scale natural process, there are certainly actions that agricultural operators can take to promote progression instead of regression.

  1. 1. Maintaining Soil Quality – According to org, “soils contain more carbon than is contained in vegetation and the atmosphere combined [5]”. As we pointed out in the first part of our series, maintaining healthy soil conditions is a vital step in not only optimizing your agricultural operation, but in being a responsible and environmentally conscious farmer as well. As we’ve highlighted in Part I, practicing responsible tilling of your fields, incorporating cover crops, and diversifying/rotating crop placement are all approaches to maintaining your soil’s quality.
  1. Utilizing Field Buffers – As discussed in Part II of our series, farmers can incorporate permanent field buffers as a way of “giving back” while reaping some additional benefits as well. By creating plots of vegetation like trees, shrubbery, or grasses, field buffers not only help absorb nutrient runoff and promote pollinators, but they can also serve as a primary tool in Biosequestration by absorbing atmospheric GHGs and storing carbon.

What Are the Potential Benefits of Promoting Carbon and Biological Sequestration?

We get it — it is human nature to ask, “what’s in it for me”? Outside of the fact that playing the role of an environmentally responsible farmer who is conscious of the impact and implications of climate change, there are some quantifiable advantages as well:

  1. Low-Cost Carbon Sequestration – Just because the practice sounds intimidating, doesn’t mean that it will cost an arm and a leg! In fact, certain areas maintain programs that provide financial incentives for implementing methods like field buffers. Be sure to check out the USDA-NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to see if there are incentive programs in your area.
  1. Potential Yield Improvement – This potential benefit should be straightforward. Much like maintaining a vehicle’s engine can produce better performance, methods of promoting Biosequestration can inadvertently result in a higher-quality, nutrient-rich soil, which as any farmer recognizes, translates to a better crop yield.
  1. Cost and Input Reduction – Piggybacking from #2, if a farmer practices proper soil management techniques, then chances are that their healthy soil will experience less nutrient loss/runoff. This benefit means your operation will require less exogenous inputs like fertilizers and amendments, resulting in a reduction in operating expense.

A Look into the Regenerative Agriculture Crystal Ball

Overarching themes of regenerative agriculture like alleviating climate change can be daunting to even consider, much less implementing practices that better position us for a sustainable future, but they’re not impossible. With technological advances like AG-tech startup, FarmSense providing new and exciting ways to better monitor and manage areas of commercial ag that were once deemed a “necessary evil”we’re looking at you, invasive pests — being a sustainable, future-minded farmer is becoming easier (and more logical) than ever before.

Until next time, be sure to check out part I and part II of our series on regenerative agriculture as well as the final installment, where we discuss the fourth cornerstone of regenerative agriculture.

References:

  1. https://webarchive.nla.gov.au/awa/20190509040128/
  2. http://www.garnautreview.org.au/index.htm
  3. https://www.ipcc.ch/
  4. http://www.unccd.int/science/soilandclimate/menu.php
  5. https://climatechangeconnection.org/solutions/carbon-sequestration/biological-sequestration/
  6. https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/programs/financial/eqip/?cid=stelprdb1047458

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