For the past 150 years, CO2 levels have continued to climb due to burning fossil fuels, clearing forests and mining soils. In fact, it is estimated that we have lost fifty to eighty percent of our topsoil worldwide with most of the soil carbon it contains returning to the atmosphere as CO2, according to the Carbon Cycle Institue. However, there are a multitude of agricultural practices we can implement to create and maintain healthy soils while increasing CO2 sequestration and hopefully prevent further degredation.
Carbon farming focuses on opportunities for increasing the capacity of the farm system to “receive, store and release” energy with 35 different practices officially identified by the Natural Resource Conservation Service. In addition to offsetting emissions, carbon farming practices have the added benefits of restoring degraded soils, enhancing crop production, and reducing pollution by minimizing erosion and nutrient runoff, purifying surface and groundwater, and increasing microbial activity and soil biodiversity (Green America, 2022). Some examples of practices that farmers can implement help improve their soil health and offset carbon emissions include: reducing tillage and fertilizer application, increasing the production of cover crops, improving water management and eliminating bare fallows.