Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

How Healthy Soils Can Help in the Fight Against Climate Change

Climate

When you think about the most important actions we can take to fight climate change, you probably think of using your car less (or even getting rid of your car), reducing energy use in your home, or even supporting the development of cleaner forms of energy like solar and wind. While all of these things are important when it comes to reducing the release of dangerous carbon pollution that is causing climate change, one of the most overlooked solutions is lying right below our feet—soil!

Our new Climate-Ready Soil report finds that by using cover crops to build soil health on just half of the corn and soybean acres planted in the top 10 agriculture states, we can help to capture more than 19 million metric tons of carbon each year—that’s the same as removing 4 million cars off the road!

In addition, using cover crops and other soil stewardship practices (like applying compost or using no-till farming) to improve organic matter in soil can help capture an additional trillion gallons of water—that’s enough water to meet the needs of nearly 33 million people every year. By improving the health of their soil, farmers also can reduce their vulnerability to future flood and drought events.

Extreme weather events—life-threatening heat waves, heavy rainfall, torrential flooding and unforgiving drought—have become increasingly common throughout the country. In recent years, farmers in states like Texas and Oklahoma, to name just a few, have been devastated by both scorching drought and heavy downpours that have either damaged crops or left fields unfit for planting. And worse still, climate change will make many of these extreme weather events more frequent and more severe.

Fortunately, farmers can help fight climate change by planting cover crops on their farms to improve the health of their soil. As winners of our recent Voices of the Soil Contest can attest, healthy soil is critical for supporting robust, resilient and sustainable farms. Soil that is stabilized with living roots throughout the year and left undisturbed by plows is teeming with microbes, fungi, earthworms, and other living things. These organisms help to supply growing plants with nutrients and water, and cover crops can play a pivotal role in fostering this healthy soil ecosystem.

Cover crops—non-commodity crops that are planted to cover the ground during the winter—have been shown to improve crop yields, help capture carbon and nitrogen, reduce erosion and runoff, and improve water retention and storage, among many other benefits. In fact, during the epic drought of 2012—which affected nearly the entire central U.S.—cover crops demonstrated their ability to build agricultural resiliency by providing the greatest yield benefit in areas hardest hit by dry weather.

Despite their many benefits, cover crop use remains quite low across the country. That’s why we have been working to get the Federal Crop Insurance Program to offer reduced premiums for farmers that use cover crops to reduce their risk of crop loss. Our new analysis shows that cover crops not only can help farmers to weather future droughts and floods, but they also can play a big role in capturing the carbon pollution that is causing climate change. By investing in cover crops, we are using healthy soil as “natural insurance” that will help soften the blow of future extreme weather events. I think we can all agree that is a win-win for farmers, our communities, and one more tool in our arsenal to fight against climate change.

Additional information on the benefits of cover crops for the top 10 states can be accessed at http://www.nrdc.org/water/climate-ready-soil.asp.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Soils and Oceans Omitted From Paris COP21 Agenda

Michael Pollan’s Letter to the Future

The Mystical Powers of Mushrooms

NASA Carbon Map Shows Which Countries are Polluting the World

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An aerial view of a crude oil storage facility of Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) in the Krasnodar Territory. Vitaly Timkiv / TASS / Getty Images

Oil rigs around the world keep pulling crude oil out of the ground, but the global pandemic has sent shockwaves into the market. The supply is up, but demand has plummeted now that industry has ground to a halt, highways are empty, and airplanes are parked in hangars.

Read More Show Less
Examples (from left) of a lead pipe, a corroded steel pipe and a lead pipe treated with protective orthophosphate. U.S. EPA Region 5

Under an agreement negotiated by community groups — represented by NRDC and the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project — the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) will remove thousands of lead water pipes by 2026 in order to address the chronically high lead levels in the city's drinking water and protect residents' health.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
ROBYN BECK / AFP / Getty Images

By Dave Cooke

So, they finally went and did it — the Trump administration just finalized a rule to undo requirements on manufacturers to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new passenger cars and trucks. Even with the economy at the brink of a recession, they went forward with a policy they know is bad for consumers — their own analysis shows that American drivers are going to spend hundreds of dollars more in fuel as a result of this stupid policy — but they went ahead and did it anyway.

Read More Show Less

By Richard Connor

A blood test that screens for more than 50 types of cancer could help doctors treat patients at an earlier stage than previously possible, a new study shows. The method was used to screen for more than 50 types of cancer — including particularly deadly variants such as pancreatic, ovarian, bowel and brain.

Read More Show Less
Ian Sane / Flickr

Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control showed a larger number of young people coming down with COVID-19 than first expected, with patients under the age of 45 comprising more than a third of all cases, and one in five of those patients requiring hospitalization. That also tends to be the group most likely to use e-cigarettes.

Read More Show Less