Linda Poole

NCAT Regenerative Grazing Specialist
Wondering if regenerative practices to rehydrate soils is worth all the effort? Check out this short piece by Christina Allday-Bondy about the potential benefits of restoring the soil sponge in New Mexico:

Organic matter in the soil is carbon based. It comes from plant residues and the billions (in healthy soil) of organisms comprising the soil food web. Water follows carbon. More evenly moist soil fosters increased populations of microorganisms that process and deliver many nutrients to plants. When these organisms thrive, plants thrive.

The Union of Concerned Scientists recently released a report, Turning Soils Into Sponges: How Farmers Can Fight Floods and Droughts that summarized their review of over 150 field experiments across six continents – looking at various methods to understand their “ability to improve soil health and increase resilience to droughts and floods.”

In both crop and animal agriculture, approaches that maintain living cover, particularly incorporating perennials, are most successful at absorbing and holding water. No-till, intercropping, more diverse crop rotations, use of cover crops between crop seasons, applications of organic material, improved livestock grazing and, diversified farming systems that incorporate perennials were all successful to varying degrees.
Plants can literally pump carbon into the soil if we pay attention to what we’re doing. NMSU scientist David C. Johnson at the Sustainable Agriculture Institute suggests that taking advantage of plants’ ability to capture carbon is a vital component in combating climate change. Dr. Johnson is not alone.

Many well-recognized leaders in the climate and soils communities (Bill McKibben, Bill Hansen, Rattan Lal, and Christine Jones) have come to the same conclusion. The Rodale Institute, and others, believe that carbon sequestration in soils could completely offset fossil fuel emissions. The Paris Climate Agreement (COP-22) included the 4 per 1000 initiative that calls on nations to increase the carbon content in the top 40 cm of soils by 0.4% per year.

Every tiny bit of land — even your backyard — offers an opportunity to store water and reduce flooding; drawdown carbon and blunt climate change.



I agree with everything that is said on that piece by Christina. I recently heard this episode "We All Want Soil Health" on the podcast We All Want Clean H2O, where Silvia Secchi, Chris Jones and Dave Cwiertny discuss some of the things that need to go along with soil health practices to truly transform our agricultural system. Its a great episode, they talk about a lot of great things, you should check it out.
One thing they discussed that caught my attention was this idea that because healthy soil improves nutrient cycling and retains more nutrients, by not amending/improving fertilization schemes, we can actually end up with more pollution in our waterways. Nevertheless, this advice is usually missing from the soil health conversation. What do you think about this?

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