Said another way, what is the connection between soil and climate change, and do farmers have any control in regard to this connection?
First, yes. The ways in which farmers farm do have an impact on the climate. As far as how soil and climate change are connected, our answer needs to be more in depth.
At The Chef’s Garden, when we farm regeneratively, there are plenty of benefits to the process with soil health being primary. That’s because healthy soil creates an outstanding environment for growing exceptional, healthy vegetables for you and your family.
At a high level, additional benefits of healthy soil include:
Improved surface water absorption
Improved sub-surface drainage
More nutrition held in the soil
So, how specifically does regenerative farming help to fight climate control? Keep reading.
More About the Role of Healthy Soil
At our farm, we plant multi-species cover crops in fallow fields. Once those tiny leaves and blades emerge from the soil, they can collect sunlight. Through photosynthesis, the plants then convert the light energy into chemical energy for their own nourishment.
Early on, plants need about 30 percent of the chemical energy for their own food; the rest is secreted from their roots into the soil through an exudation process. This process provides nourishment for the soil. Once the cover crops begin to flower, they need about half of the chemical energy for their own needs, so this is when we gently work the crops into the soil. As the plants decompose, this further improves the health of the soil by increasing the organic matter content of the soils.
Through regenerative agriculture practices, farmers can therefore better manage the legacy minerals in the soil (those minerals that are natively occurring in our soils from geological activity over thousands of years), including phosphorus. The reality is that there’s already two to three times the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen natively in our soils in the United States than what traditionally grown crops need; however, many times, they’re not in a readily available chemical form. Through regenerative farming practices, including cover cropping, reducing tillage and reducing toxic inputs, to name a few, those naturally existing nutrients are released and made available in the chemical form needed by plants, whereas, in conventional agriculture, farmers simply add more phosphorus and nitrogen to the soil.
The result? Algal blooms in Lake Erie and elsewhere in the country. (But not from regenerative farming!)
Managing the Legacy Minerals Process
By using cover crops and leveraging the power of photosynthesis, carbons in the sugars that are produced are exuded into the soil. This is known as carbon sequestration—and, through this process, farmers can play another key role in climate control.
Here’s how the U.S. Department of the Interior explains it: “Carbon dioxide is the most commonly produced greenhouse gas. Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. It is one method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the goal of reducing global climate change.”
So, through our regenerative agricultural techniques, we sequester carbon, which reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the goal of reducing global climate change.
Regenerative farming is really a form of composting—from the sun’s energy to the cover crop, and then to the soil; to microorganisms that decompose the crops; and then to the vegetables being grown—but chemical pesticides disrupt this natural process. How? These chemicals destroy the very organisms that we’re building up through regenerative farming, ones that naturally feed crops being grown.
With the techniques we use, though, the need for any pesticides is drastically reduced, another boon to the environment.
We Invite You to Taste the Difference
Besides playing a crucial role in helping to prevent climate change, regenerative farming allows us to grow farm-fresh vegetables that are full of flavor and nutrition. Order some and taste the difference!