Loss of Topsoil Means More Carbon Dioxide in the Air

Healthy topsoil contains lots of living organisms. Those organisms are made of carbon. When we "lose" topsoil, those organisms die, and much of their carbon is released into the atmosphere. Burning fossil fuels also adds carbon dioxide into the air, but since 1850, twice as much carbon dioxide has been released into the atmosphere by agriculture than by fossil fuels.

How do we lose topsoil? By erosion. Every time a field is plowed, it exposes the topsoil to wind and rain. When the same field is covered in grass, the loss of topsoil is almost nil. Rain is absorbed rather than running off as mud, and wind doesn't blow the dirt into the air. A healthy grassland creates more topsoil than it loses, pulling ever more carbon from the air and sequestering it underground.

How can we produce food without tilling the ground? One very important way is by using grazing animals. They eat the grass, and the way their hooves break the ground and the way their waste nurtures the grass, if the grazing is done properly, that grassland will become more productive, turning more of the sunlight into food — without losing topsoil and without contributing carbon dioxide to the air. In fact, by making the grassland so healthy, the net effect is to considerably reduce the carbon dioxide in the air.

When the soil is cared for in this way, not only do we reverse the loss of topsoil, but we also prevent water shortages, feed wildlife, and create greater biodiversity.

Read more: How to Stop Two Thirds of the Earth From Turning Into a Desert.


BalancedHarvesting 5:18 PM  

Thank you so much for sharing Your experiences. I have a 1/4 Section that has never been farmed or grazed, but logged of over-mature 50 year old Black Poplar in 2002. The black hummus layer is very thin over the clay and I have observed that it would do more damage to plough it. My intentions are to fence it off and graze a variety of ruminants. The area was burnt off by wildfire in the early 50's and the topsoil washed off the ridges and filled two small trout lakes with topsoil. There has been a good growth of wild grasses after the Clear Cut in 2002.

I have wondered if there would be an appropriate grass seed to buy to add variety? There is Switch grass in the areas where we garden and have wondered if that is suitable for livestock? Any advice would be appreciated.

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