A while back, I suggested that one of the big reasons for losing topsoil--and also the key to retaining and increasing it--is to simply allow the land to grow the plants that are suitable for it instead of plowing it every year to grow grain for chickens, turkeys, and pigs. Let animals graze it directly instead of harvesting it with a tractor, and you'll soon find that you get both healthier meat, as well as healthier land.
Well, I may be insane, and this may prove it, but I can at least argue I'm not alone. In this article, Joel Salatin argues about the same thing; that if we abandoned the feedlot, we could re-sequester all of the carbon that has been emitted by human sources in the past century within a matter of years.
For fun, let's check his math. My family probably eats about half a ton of meat and dairy per year, meaning probably about ten tons of feed was used to grow it. Do it with forage, and we would conclude that about twice that amount would be used, and that an equivalent amount of roots (new organic matter) would be put into the soil. So if we changed to pasture fed meats and dairy products, we'd be sequestering something around 20 tons of carbon annually. We also could reduce the farmer's fuel usage by a few tons of diesel fuel.
In contrast, our family burns about 1400 gallons, or ~4 tons, of gasoline per year, and probably an equivalent amount of fuel for heat and electricity. So if indeed pasture based agriculture does put organic matter into the soil, and if indeed plow based agriculture destroys it, one great way of reducing atmospheric carbon would be to let grazing animals, you know, "graze."
It also might do wonders for water quality, seafood availability, and flood dangers. It is as if God wants us to know something about His Creation.
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