A lot of people and publications are talking about sequestering carbon. Some think in the not so distant future there will be a market for that. As a farmer rancher you can have a huge impact on how much carbon stays in your soil.
Regardless of how you feel about greenhouse gases, fossil fuels, climate change and all the controversies related to carbon, we are moving that direction. Getting carbon into your soil and keeping it there has huge benefits for your crops and livestock and it just so happens that its great for the environment beyond your land as well.
So what can you and I do? How about no till or minimum tillage on your farmland? Keeping the physical soil structure in tact will store carbon and increase organic matter over time. More organic matter means more water holding capacity, less drought problems, less fertilizer inputs. In other words its a win win!
How about your crop residue? Returning it to the soil, particularly as a shield of protection on the soil surface aids in organic matter and carbon retention, another plus.
Plant cover crops! We tend to think in terms of making hay or silage or grain from our crops but cover crops , which can be grazed, build the soil. The root mass feeds the soil microbes and holds carbon and the biomass above ground reduces erosion and lowers soil temperature by shading it on hot days. Good for the soil, good for the atmosphere!
Manure and compost. Manure which can be directly applied by the grazing animals builds soil organic matter and increases the amount of carbon the soil can hold. This also adds to soil structure and increases topsoil. Think of a dry sponge, the structure is right to hold a lot of water which will in turn water your crops during extended dry periods.
How about crop selection? Perennial crops eliminate the need for any tillage while annual crops with a high residue can aid in holding the carbon on your farm ground. Some folks are even broadcasting a shorter plant into the growing taller grain plant rows to keep the soil covered during and immediately after harvesting the grain.
I know a lot of people have been doing this because its environmentally responsible and the right thing to do. That’s great and I applaud your efforts! As we get closer to a carbon market you all can teach the rest of us how to do it. Undoubtedly your expertise will be valuable!
Make a difference!