Can Regenerative Agriculture Reverse Climate Change? | One Small Step

Can Regenerative Agriculture Reverse Climate Change

The solution to climate change might be right under my feet

I’m talking about the soil. Healthy soil equals healthy food equals healthy people. The age of chemical food production is gone. Regenerative Organic agriculture is really the future. If you follow sustainability issues at all, you may have heard of regenerative agriculture.

It’s a farming practice that some experts claim can reverse climate change by sequestering atmospheric CO2 in the soil. We could sequester 100% of human-caused carbon emissions? That’s absolutely correct. Proponents say that it can increase biodiversity, make farms more resilient to floods, produce healthier foods, and even improve farm animal welfare.

It sounds almost too good to be true. So I want to know, can regenerative agriculture reverse climate change? To find out I’ve come to the heart of regenerative agriculture research The Rodale Institute, they’ve studied regenerative and organic farming methods for 70 years. I’m Lucy Biggers. And this is One Small Step.

The farm where we’re standing was purchased by entrepreneur J.I. Rodale in 1940. On the land he began experimenting with farming without the use of chemicals in a term he coined organic. In 1947, Rodale launched the Soil and Health Foundation, which today is known as the Rodale Institute.

The nonprofit has decades-long research on farming methods, including a nearly 40-year side-by-side analysis of conventional farming versus organic farming. Regenerative organic farming emphasizes the importance of soil health and includes practices like cover cropping, crop rotation, holistic raising by animals, the use of compost, and no chemical fertilizers herbicides, or pesticides.

In September 2020

The Rodale Institute released a paper that concluded that the global adoption of regenerative practices across both grasslands and arable acreage could sequester more than 100% of current anthropogenic emissions of CO2. Okay, that is definitely a mouthful.

But basically what Rodale’s research is saying is if we could transition our farmland and grasslands to regenerative practices we could actually sequester the carbon that humans release. Basically, they’re claiming that we could reverse climate change just by changing our farming practices. I spoke to Jeff Moyer, CEO of the Rodale Institute to find out more.

I think a lot of people think that soil is just dead, it’s dirt. Right? So what are you doing right now on this farm to protect that soil health and restore that soil health? The key to soil health is the microbial life that’s in the soil. We all get our energy from the sun, whether it’s electrical energy you’re using in your home, or it’s an oil that you’re using in your car.

Microbial life in the soil is the same way. Only it gets its energy from the plants that are growing on the soil. So if the soil is bare with no crop on it, there’s no energy being collected, the microbial life in the soil dies and the health degrades. And so what we need to do as farmers keep the ground covered with something green and growing 12 months out of the year.

So this field was tilled just the other day, but we immediately planted some fast-growing cover crops that I’m gonna dig a little bit up here and show you that it has a very complex root system already. there you can sort of see the rye seed that we planted right here. Right. Here’s the rye sprout coming up, but look at all of the root structure here already.

So it’s collecting energy and putting carbon in the soil

The plant roots are supporting the microbial life in the soil and the top of the plant is collecting solar energy, which is carbon, and putting it in the soil where the plant can use it. When plants use photosynthesis, they take CO2 out of the atmosphere and put some of it in the soil as carbon.

Plants are so good at this, that there’s three to four times more carbon in our soils than in our atmosphere and vegetation. Historically conventional farming with its heavy reliance on pesticides and synthetic fertilizers has degraded the soil and decreased the amount of carbon it holds. So much so that it’s estimated 75% of global soils are degraded.

And according to the United Nations, we only have 60 harvests left. So if this was just a conventional farm, they would just leave it field like this bare all winter? That’s right, yes, absolutely, it would just be bare. And why is that so bad? Well, again, you’re not collecting any solar energy and you’re not feeding the microbial life in the soil.

So even when this is gone next season some of this carbon that was in its roots will (indistinct) Oh, the carbon will, yeah. In a couple of weeks, this thing will be covered solid with solar collectors, collecting energy from the sun and sequestering that energy and that carbon in the soil.

To understand regenerative agriculture, we have to look at today’s conventional farming, which took hold in the 1960s and is now the dominant way to farm in the US. Conventional agriculture relies on the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, as well as genetically modified crops that produce high yields in vast acres of monoculture fields.

Over the past century

Conventional agriculture has doubled farm outputs but at a major cost. Conventional agriculture produces less nutrient-dense food, emits chemical runoff that pollutes waterways threatening human health and it contributes to climate change. Fossil fuel-based nitrogen fertilizers are a major source of nitrous oxide, which is a potent greenhouse gas.

When we first started farming organically and we bought this farm in 1971, everybody said you can’t grow corn, but clearly, you can see this field right next to us. Yeah Is a very lush green growing cornfield. Yeah. And this has been organic for the last 50 years. So this is the corn that’s being raised for livestock feed. Got it. This is not human consumption corn.

This isn’t sweet corn, but an ear of very nice ear corn. We have a whole field of it. So it doesn’t matter if this field is one acre or 10,000 acres. Right. We can do it organically. And what about pest control with organic? That’s where crop rotations come in. We’re growing corn in this field this year. We won’t grow corn on this field next year.

We’re gonna grow it over there. So all the insects and the pests will be here not over there so we rotate crops and. It’s that simple? It’s that simple. Rodale has conducted a 40-year farm systems trial to compare the yields of conventional farming versus organic farming. Here are their fields where they’ve been testing for 40 years.

This is conventional corn, which has fed fertilizers and pesticides, and then there’s this five-foot barrier. And then here is the organic corn. This site has no chemicals added. This site has a ton of chemicals. So in the first four years, the conventional system out-yielded the organic system. Okay. And this is a field that was pretty degraded.

It had been 70 to 100 years of conventional tillage and heavy chemical use

The plants kind of like relied on those chemicals and then we took them away. From year four to today there’s been no statistical difference between the yields in the organic and the conventional system. And what we found a lot of that has to do with putting more carbon in the soil.

Drew Smith is the chief scientist at Rodale. Why can’t conventional agriculture also sequester carbon? What are you doing differently that changes that outcome? What we found over a long period of time here at Rodale Institute and the farming systems trial is that when you use synthetic fertilizers you actually lose carbon over time.

And when you use organic or natural-based fertilizers, like composts, manures, and other natural fertilizers, you actually gain carbon in the soil over time. [Lucy] Rodale shows that you don’t have to use chemicals to get great results. On the farm, they grow vegetables like squash, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. This tomato plant is 15 feet tall.

Wow, so there’s one that starts right here, and then it goes over here. And up to here, wow. And up to here. That is amazing. And you can see that it’s still. It still wants to keep going. And they humanely raise pigs, chickens, and turkeys that have space to live and access to fields. This is like a chicken lawnmower. Oh yeah, we call it the chicken tractor.

I know right now there’s this huge conversation, you know, go vegan for the climate. But I see you’re raising chickens here, you obviously care about the climate. So what is the relationship with animals? The problem is in how we’ve chosen to produce animals by force-feeding them grains so that they can produce meat at a faster rate, but then the quality of the meat goes down.

Beef animals produce methane if you feed them corn and soybeans

They don’t produce nearly as much if they’re eating grass. Probably in this country, we all eat too much meat. [Lucy] Right. [Jeff] And we should cut down the amount of meat that we eat, but we don’t have to eliminate meat.

Instead of chemical fertilizer, Rodale uses compost, which Jeff told me to help sequester carbon. In degrees, hotter than bathwater, you know. You can see it looks like rich black soil. Keep in mind carbon is black, coal is black. We only put it on our fields once every five to 10 years. Really? Yeah.

That’s how strong it is? The idea of applying this material is not to use it as fertilizer but to use it as a soil amendment to feed the microbial life in the soil. To connect the dot to me, then that’s sequestering carbon because more microbes mean more carbon in the soil? That’s correct. The microbes are carbon-based just like we are.

All life is carbon-based. So the more carbon and they all-Oh, the more life. Exactly, there’s more life in the soil. More diversity and more life. You really connected a dot for me because I’m like, it’s been so abstract, like carbon in the soil. I’m like, okay, but it really it’s because of the microbes. The population of the microbes, yes.

And it seems like what we’ve got going on right now with conventional agriculture

With the chemicals, is we’re just masking a very dead soil. That’s correct. So back to this argument of sequestering 100% of our co two emissions. How is that even possible? Well, Rodale looked at several farmlands and grazing studies that showed a significant increase in soil carbon after the adoption of regenerative agriculture.

Based on those results, they extrapolated that if global degraded farmland and grassland were restored through regenerative agriculture, global soils could drawdown over 49 gigatons of CO2, which is more than the approximate 37 gigatons of CO2 released globally each year.

However, critics of the white paper claim that 100% carbon sequestration in our soils is overstated. And that 10 to 15% sequestration is more likely and still optimistic. Regardless, I still think there are serious benefits to regenerative agriculture, including preventing chemical runoff, creating more nutritious foods, improving animal welfare, and improving resilience against climate change.

Soil with higher levels of carbon has a higher water holding capacity, which helps farms survive times of flooding and drought. So here’s what you can do to support regenerative agriculture. First, vote with your dollar and look for this newly released regenerative organic certification, which is beginning to show up on products in stores.

But research has shown that

If you can’t find them in your local store, you can shop at regeneorganic.org. Also in February of 2020 U.S. legislatures introduced the Agriculture Resilience Act to Congress, which includes incentives for farmers to improve soil health and an increase in soil carbon research. Reach out to your house representative to express your support.

Finally, the more people that know about regenerative agriculture, the better. So share this video with your friends. That’s all for this episode. Thank you so much for watching and we’ll see you next time. Bye. Thank you so much. This has been an awesome, awesome tour. It’s been my pleasure. Really feel I got a few light bulb moments there.

Good. Carbon is life in the soil. That’s right. So cool. The news can be a lot. There’s a lot of good out there. And a lot of fearless kids and families putting kindness into action in their own communities. But the first step towards helping is understanding. And that’s where we come in.

Everyone wants to understand the world, which is why we’re bringing the news to your family. But NowThis way. Each week, we’ll talk about the important issues, the positive progress, and the unsung heroes who are changing things for the better. With a weekly YouTube series podcast and newsletter. We’ll explore the uplifting stories that inspire us. And dive deep to understand our changing world together. On NowThis Kids.

20 Fun, Cheap Things to Do with Kids – Family Activities

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The Hot is in the Air

Yes, it kind of early October, and well Tennesseeitstill pretty hot yep. I used to always think October was crisp and cool. And it gets there, in the end, this is like the shifting season for me here in Nashville when it comes to weather.

I had Charles almost a year ago which is crazy but on October 16th I remember I got my due date and I was like just a crisp cool wonderful fall baby. Uh uh, not in Tennessee. It is still pretty hot. So what we gonna talk about are some 20 fun free things you can do with your family in the fall.

So some of you gonna be crisp and cool and everything you think about all others of you in the South still might be a little warm but it perfect because there lot still fun free things you can do outside inside all of it. But fall it a great season.

So the first thing you can do is free to go on a nature walk or find some nature trails. Look in your area. They are everywhere. Okay, just Google where you are and just say okay find some get your family involved, and go on a nature hike. Number two goes camping in your backyard.

Yes, this is Something Kids Love

If you have a tent or if you do; you can maybe borrow just put up in the backyard. Literally, your kids will talk about it for days. Number three make and jump into a pile of leaves. This is like every kid’s dream seriously. I feel like every kid loves the idea of jumping into leaves.

And if you’ve done it as an actually kind of gross I feel like.I;m like there just like the bugs like crunched sleeves all in your hair and on you. It kind of itchy.Like rolling down like a hill with grass. It just looks magical as a child but then it just all itchy and weird. But like kid love it.

So do it because you know what about the memories people and leaves are free. So put a big pile together jump intake some pictures great. Number four bird-watch.We have this cheap bird feeder in our backyard like bluebirds and cardinals which are redI mean all these kind of exotic looking birds come on our little dang bird feeder and itso fun.

My kid, they love it. They love seeing the birds. They love seeing I mean squirrels come too and eat itso it not as fun but like all the birds itso crazy. And Winston he might kill me for saying this knows like every tree the name of like basically any tree and any bird.

So Like he Always is Like Oh Yeah that Chickadee that Female

I was like how do you know this stuff? So maybe you can become a bird expert like Winston and just be really smart. He knows all the things. Number five hayrides.

Oh, this is a classic fall thing. So people do this in their communities may be a local church is doing it but if there are hayrides around again for the kids they love it. So go do that as a family. Number six a pumpkin patch Family Activities.

Now sometimes this takes a little fee to get in some places charge for you to like walk around and then they charge you to actually buy a pumpkin. So maybe skip out on buying the pumpkin there. You can go buy at the grocery store find a cheaper place but just walking around a pumpkin patchtherejust something about it Family Activities.

It like Christmas time and you go and you like walkthrough like all the Christmas trees like picking your own if you buy real trees, you those people. It just kind of brings in the holidays. And same with pumpkins. Like just go and just smell the fresh fall air in a pumpkin patch.

Dance Party

I am telling you kids this is what I’ve learned it like the small things in life that they just love. So do they love like a nice trip to Disney World? Sure. But do they also love when you like doing dishes you guys just like blast music and you just dance around? I mean my girls are obsessed Family Activities.

They love it so much. So just do it. Just you know relax a little. Have a little dance party. Number eight carve a pumpkin. Yes, that little pumpkin that you bought not at the pumpkin patchbut at the grocery store you know carve it. And this is one thing.

If you not creative like me this is a tough thing to do. Every pumpkin I carve it just kind of looks crazy. And I know they supposed to some of them look crazy but like mine never look good. So get a Sharpie test it out but again fun memories.

Number nine the San Diego Zoo has live cameras on all the animals. So if you are in an area in the country that it is too cold right now to go to the zoo you can actually pull up a link from the San Diego Zoo and watch the animals on your TV.

Effects of the Novel

Again not like you actually there but something to do and it free. Number 10 check out the Novel Effect app. So this adds music sound effects character voices to all your kids; favorite books. So so fun really really interesting.

It makes it really exciting. Number 11 another way to kick up storytimes to watch astronauts read children’s books from space storytimefromspace.com.Number 12 hosts a silly (or scary) movie marathon. If your kids can watch like two movies in a rowyougonna be like the coolest parents ever.

So pop popcorn does s; mores just have some family time and watch some movies. Number 13 plan a Friendsgiving. These are the best. Thanksgiving dinner is great. It usually with your family. We love our family Family Activities.

We all love our families but Friendsgivings are sometimes just wonderful because it just reminds you of all the great friends you have. So plan one. Have everyone bring a dish and enjoy the festivities of Thanksgiving with your friends.

Sunday Drive Goes

Number 14 goes for a Sunday drive. This is something I did growing up and apparently because I asked a few people here would go walk through houses like on Sundays as kids like with my parents. They would like to find a house for the top of the sales and like go into open houses.

Like we would always walk through homes. So I don’t know if it like a thing if the Ramseys were just kind of weird but that something you can do. Just go for a drive. Maybe you see a house you like hey for Fun just go in see how they decorated the place get some ideas.

Number 15 does some fun at-home spooky science experiments. You can go to science fun.organd there are a ton of great ideas for experiments that your kids are going to love. So could be a little messy so prepare yourself. But again for kids, they gonna love you for it Family Activities.

Number 16 create as; mores charcuterie board for girls; night. Yeah, you know charcuterie? We did a little video about this. Oh, cheeses and meats and olives and nuts and jams so good. Well do it for s; mores. So get creative.

Your Heart Desires

Anything that your heart desires when it comes to s; more just lay it out and have some girls over have a great girl; night. Number 17 do a backyard scavenger hunt. Okay, lists for these are everywhere on the internet. So you can do this in your backyard around your neighborhood but go on a scavenger hunt with your kids.

Number 18 gets crafty with leaves. Yep so leaves again are free people. So go get some leaves from the backyard. You can like to glue them on paper. You can like put glue on them do some glitter some stuff sparkle up some leave just a little craft idea for the kids.

Number 19 makes s; mores Rice Krispie treats. Okay, this is interesting. So they like normal Rice Krispie treats except you use Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal which is like the best cereal on the planet. I freaking love Cinnamon Toast Crunch itso good Family Activities.

So you add that instead of Rice Krispies and then you add in chocolate chips and extra marshmallows. Sounds amazing. Number 20 hosts an apple pie or chili cook-off. I make the best white bean chicken chili. And then in Nashville well-known for hot chicken.

Hot White Bean Chicken Chili and it is Literally Everyone Threatens

So now I’ve substituted my regular chicken in that hot chicken and now I have hot white bean chicken chili and it is literally everyone threatens it is This could be in a restaurant. I’m like I know itso good quote. So get some friends and sayhey let make the best chili recipe Family Activities.

Because of chili great for the fall. Itso easy to cook. You just throw in a Crock-Pot throw it on the stove or itso easy. I love simple recipes and you can exchange all the recipes. Number 21 last but not least keep it simple and have a family picnic in the park.

Yes, go find their playground in your are even just a big grassy field just taking your family out of the norm of doing things even mealtime when it just so monotonous sometimes just breaking that and doing something different your kids will love it. So this just proves you can have fun with your family and it can be cheap or even free.

So you don’t have to break the bank this fall. So I would love to hear from you guys on what you love to do during the fall that is free or cheap or inexpensive the above we’ll get some ideas flowing and fall of 2020 could be the best fall yet.