Friday, September 25, 2020

Rodale Institute: New Study Shows Shift To Regenerative Agriculture Could Sequester 100% Of Annual Global Carbon Emissions

A new white paper released by Berks County-based
Rodale Institute has analyzed new data on soil carbon sequestration potential in the past decade to conclude that a global switch to regenerative crop and pasture systems could drawdown more than 100 percent of annual CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions. 

The white paper, titled “Regenerative Agriculture and the Soil Carbon Solution,” builds upon findings first made by Rodale Institute in the widely read 2014 white paper, “Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming,” integrating the newest research data while providing actionable steps for consumers, policymakers, farmers, and more. 

As extreme weather events, rising temperatures, and global health crises continue to threaten our world, the repercussions of a changing climate are being felt more acutely than ever. 

As the global community looks for solutions, we must critically examine the way we grow our food, and the potential of the soil under our feet to remove carbon, a powerful greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere and lock it underground.

The new publication shows that a global switch to a regenerative food system could not only feed the world while reducing chemical exposure and improving biodiversity and soil health but could also be the key to mitigating the climate crisis. 

The paper was compiled through extensive peer-reviewed research data and interviews with leaders in the fields of soil microbiology, ranchland ecology, agronomy, and more, as well as research conducted in Rodale Institute’s world-renowned long-term comparison trials, including the 40-year-old Farming Systems Trial.

“Rodale Institute has been a leader in research about the impact and benefit of regenerative farming systems since Bob Rodale first started using the term in the 1980s,” said Dr. Andrew Smith, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Scientist of Rodale Institute. “A vast amount of data on the carbon sequestration potential of agricultural soils has been published, including from Rodale Institute, and recent findings are starting to reinforce the benefits of regenerative agricultural practices in the fight against the climate crisis.”

Key Findings

The key findings in the new white paper include--

-- Shifting both crop and pasture management globally to regenerative systems is a powerful combination that could drawdown more than 100 percent of annual CO2 emissions, pulling carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil.

-- With appropriate grazing management, livestock can increase carbon sequestered in the soil that more than offsets their greenhouse gas emissions.

-- Crop yields in regenerative systems have been shown to outcompete conventional yields for almost all food crops, proving that regenerative can feed the world while stabilizing the climate, regenerating ecosystems, restoring biodiversity and enhancing rural communities.

-- Eaters, farmers, and policymakers can make a difference in the climate crisis fight by:

     -- Supporting and implementing regenerative practices

     -- Encouraging adoption of regenerative systems by peers and governments

     -- Divesting from systems that destroy soil health

Rodale Institute launched the paper at The Crop Trust’s Food Forever Experience, held in partnership with Pocono Organics. The Food Forever Experience is held on the UN Global Day of Action, which encourages people to support the Sustainable Development Goals, including climate action.

Regenerative practices and building soil health have come into focus over the past few years, driven in part by the startling loss of topsoil globally, and the need for resilient agriculture to withstand extreme weather from the climate crisis. 

The carbon-storing potential of regenerative agriculture and its associated practices is well-documented—however, we need rapid transition to these practices globally to implement this climate change solution.

“Humans broke the planet with grave agricultural malpractice,” said Tom Newmark, Chairman of The Carbon Underground, a contributor to the paper. “With this white paper, Rodale Institute shows us how regenerative agriculture has the potential to repair that damage and actually reverse some of the threatening impacts of our climate crisis. This is a compelling call to action!”

“Regenerative Agriculture and the Soil Carbon Solution” hopes to increase implementation of regenerative practices by tackling common debates about agriculture and the climate crisis, such as the role of livestock in contributing to global climate change. 

Alongside research into cropland, the paper investigates regenerative ranching’s potential to build soil carbon and help sequester emissions in the soil.

Through the publication of this white paper, Rodale Institute hopes to invite those in the food, farming, and health spaces to rethink the future they want to see for both people and the planet, and what steps they can take every day to achieve it.

Visit the Rodale Institute’s Climate 2020 webpage for a copy of the paper, a fact sheet and an Action Toolkit.

Related Articles:

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-- Upcoming Penn State Energy Law & Policy Webinars To Focus On Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

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[Posted: Sept. 25, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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