How Can We Address Climate Change Through Agriculture?

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How can we address climate change through agriculture? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by David Perry, President, CEO, and Director at Indigo Ag, on Quora:

In May, Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii reported the highest level of atmospheric carbon dioxide ever recorded in human history: 415 parts per million (ppm). Prior to the Industrial Revolution, that recording was 280 ppm. When the difference (135 ppm) is multiplied by the mass of the atmosphere, you arrive at a total of 1 trillion tons – or, a teraton – of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today that was not there 200 years ago.

As we have come to realize the impact of climate change, a new willingness and tenacity has also developed to address its root causes. At Indigo, we believe agriculture presents one of the most immediate, scalable, and affordable solutions to address climate change: agricultural soils.

There are approximately 3.6 billion acres of farmland worldwide. All of these acres, before they were cultivated, had soil carbon levels between 3% and 7%. Today, these soil carbon levels are at roughly 1%. If every acre of farmland were returned to a soil carbon level of just 3%, one trillion tons of carbon dioxide would be removed from the atmosphere and stored in the soil, making the size of the potential solution agriculture presents equivalent to the size of the problem we face.

The question then becomes, “How do we increase the carbon content of soil, while still cultivating the land?” A small percentage of farmers already have: through practices known as “regenerative,” farmers can drive carbon into the soil and keep it there, resulting in soils that are healthier, more resilient to extreme weather, less in need of chemical and fertilizer inputs, and able to produce higher yields – all of which is better for the environment, growers, and consumers. Regenerative farming practices include cover cropping, rotational cropping, reduced or no tillage, reduced chemical and fertilizer application, and livestock integration.

To leverage the immense potential of agricultural soils to sequester carbon, Indigo launched The Terraton Initiative, a global effort to draw down one trillion tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide into agricultural soils.

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