Agricultural Greenhouse Gasses & the Carbon Cycle

"Carbon is the currency for most transactions within and between living things." - Christine Jones

"the trouble isn't the carbon itself; it's that there is too much of it in the air rather than in the ground, where it lends fertility to the soils." - Judith Schwartz

Industrial Agriculture has resulted in enormous environmental damage including significant greenhouse gas emissions. By constantly fighting against nature's way of doing things nature's balanced carbon cycles - that have evolved over millions of years - are broken. By changing to mimicking nature and working with nature we are able to fix and indeed accelerate these broken carbon cycles and reduce the environmental and climate damage.

"Soil is the climate solution." - Finian Makepeace, Kiss the Ground

Real carbon cycles are of course more complicated than those depicted in the diagrams below and they link in with water cycles and other mineral cycles but these simplified diagrams highlight the complexity and lack of cycling in Industrial Agriculture with the simplicity and balanced carbon cycling of Regenerative Agriculture.

"On our ranch everything revolves around carbon." Gabe Brown

"Accelerated topsoil formation is the great work of our time." - Abe Collins, Soil Carbon Coalition

Ruminants belch methane as they break down plant cellulose but this is part of a natural cycle.  There have been 100s of millions of ruminants on the planet for millions of years and they never pushed up greenhouse gas concentrations.  Indeed these ruminants evolved with the grasslands of the world and together they captured the mass of carbon that was once in the soil below those grasslands, the carbon that our agriculture has released.  As this image from an independent carbon lifecycle assessment done on White Oak Pastures farm shows properly managed cows on grass are part of a natural grassland carbon cycle. This is very different to monoculture cropping and animal confinement (feedlots) both of which take carbon from the soil and emit it into the atmosphere without the accompanying sequestration.

To reduce emissions and reinstate natural carbon cycles we need to:

  • Stop ploughing
  • Stop applying synthetic fertilisers
  • Stop monocultures
  • Stop spraying chemical
  • Ensure our soils are covered with crops at all times
  • Get ruminants into crop rotations
  • Close feedlots down
  • Get ruminants grazing on the fields that used to provide grain for feedlots
  • Get high impact, long rest, planned grazing on grasslands

"Soil carbon is the key driver for farm profit" - Dr. Christine Jones

Video:  Dr. Christine Jones explains how increasing diversity and decreasing nitrogen puts carbon in the soil and increases production