Thursday, January 1, 2015

Save civilization — grow topsoil

Jeffrey Carter in the Western Producer: Farmers need to move beyond conserving topsoil and start growing it, according to a Vermont grazier, educator and consultant. “The best we’ve been able to do is that we’re losing 10 times more soil than is being grown. At least, that’s the latest numbers I’ve seen,” Abe Collins told the Ecological Farmers of Ontario conference in Orillia in early December.
Collins is part of a small group of agriculturalists who want to take that next step. He is co-founder of the Soil Carbon Coalition, a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming atmospheric carbon into soil organic matter.
“If topsoil is renewable, at least that’s the experience of our community, we all need to learn how to grow it,” he said. “Nearly everything rests on us to grow the topsoil so that the rest of society can survive and civilization continues.” Collins encourages farmers to evaluate their current practices and make the necessary changes to build their soil in a real and substantial manner.
The first step is to establish a series of GPS-located, strategically placed, four-by-four metre, permanent plots that can be monitored over the coming years. Locations should be photographed and ecological observations such as earthworm activity recorded. The water infiltration capacity must be measured with a tension infiltrometer and core samples taken to measure soil carbon.
Returning to the same location each year allows farmers, foresters and other landowners to monitor how the changes they are making are improving their soils. Collins said there is no one path to building the capacity of topsoil and increasing soil organic matter. Progress will have been made if farmers can achieve real, measurable gains....
Cracked soil, shot by Jeroen Moes, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons 2.0 license

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