Posts Tagged ‘Grass Soil Hope’

Climatic Migration is happening. Are we ready?

February 25, 2016

Anthropologist, Brian Fagan paints a sobering world picture for us in his book, The Attacking Ocean. We in NH are far enough inland and upland that unless we have past experiences of living near the ocean and can go back and experience the then and now, it is difficult to accept the reality of rising sea levels and loss of habitable land.

Fagan takes us through the natural events he considers our greatest threat: earthquakes, tsunamis, and tropical storms “which spread water horizontally over low-lying coastal landscapes and river deltas, some of the most densely inhabited environments on earth.”

Our challenge internationally is to figure out how we can cooperate to absorb the migrations that have already begun. In the US, inland migration has begun. How do we plan to share our space, food and water? Earth is prepared to nourish us if we are willing to cooperate and look at the big picture.

We already know that GMO monoculture plowed crops are destroying the life of the earth’s soil, despite the slick rhetoric advertised. The reality is that the fantastic network of soil mycorrhizal fungi which absorb and redistribute carbon and other nutrients through roots, and help to set in motion the release of oxygen we need, is being destroyed by plowing, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

Courtney White traveled all over the world to observe innovative farmers and he takes us along through his book, Grass, Soil, Hope: A journey through Carbon Country. The good news is that permaculture farming, developed by two Australians: Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s, is spreading all over the world. Also called no-till farming, permaculture farming avoids the use of plows, pesticides and herbicides. Instead, Prehistoric and Native American practices of no till (permaculture) farming not only enriches our soil, it stores abundant carbon as well.

Permculture farming assures erosion control by not disturbing the network of soil microbes, beneficial bacteria, fungi, nematodes (tiny worms). Mulching, cover cropping, and companion planting of diverse crops encourage a strong network. By not plowing up this network, these practices are reclaiming and protecting the soil, producing greater harvests of robust, healthy foods, free of harmful chemicals.

When Hurricane Irene hit Dorn Cox’s permaculture farm in Lee, NH, he noted “lots of rain but no damage”. Farmers who plowed had no underground network to protect their crops from hurricane energy.

White, a New Mexico farmer himself, takes us to visit ranchers out west who fence off their grassland into paddocks. By rotating herds through the paddocks, they avoid overgrazing and assure good pasture. Some of them grazed sheep and cattle together; the cattle kept sheep predators at bay. Herds, by eating, walking and defecating, also stimulated native grasses to grow, proliferate and outcompete the weeds. To top it off, the quality of grass fed meat gradually increased income and ability to increase herd size.

At a tenuous time when it seems as though every aspect of survival is up in the air, we could literally ground ourselves by reconnecting with Earth’s network as the snow recedes around our homes. How might we encourage the underground internet to flourish?

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Grass, Soil, Hope: Yes!

August 6, 2014

Here’s GOOD NEWS of simple practices that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere while benefitting the earth’s web of life. In his book, Grass, Soil, Hope, Courtney White takes us on a trip around the world with courageous people who have figured out ingenious ways to sequester carbon in the soil.

He cited research which found that “globally, soils contain 3x the amount of carbon that is stored in vegetation, and 2x the amount stored in the atmosphere. Since two-thirds of the earth’s land mass is grassland, better management practices, even on a small scale, could have a huge impact.”

Because 2 billion of the earth’s people depend on livestock, New Mexico was a great place to see where better soil management would take us. Actually, we all live in Carbon Country. There’s something here that can benefit all of us as we think about cover crops like white clover and winter rye and other nitrogen fixers, and upgrade our gardening skills.

Native Americans long practiced no till farming, where roots are disturbed as little as possible to allow for new plant growth while keeping the nematodes (soil microbes) happy, and atmospheric CO2 stored in the soil. Today, the no-till method is helping farmers to reduce or eliminate the use of herbicides and chemical fertilizers.

He cites ranchers who divided their property up into paddocks based on grass quality and soil type. By rotating their herds through the paddocks, they prevented overgrazing and assured good pasture. Some of them grazed sheep and cattle together, and the cattle kept sheep predators at bay. Herds, by eating, walking and defecating, also stimulated native grasses to grow, proliferate, and outcompete the weeds. To top it off, the quality of grass fed meat gradually increased income and ability to increase herd size.

He also cited the work of French agricultural scientist, Christian Dupraz. Dupraz came up with the idea of an agrovoltaic system where solar panels were constructed 12 feet above ground. This enabled farm machinery to move easily beneath them. In addition, the panels were constructed to provide the right amount of shade and reduced the amount of water needed, and to protect crops from hail and rainstorms related to climate change. All the while using solar energy to make electricity!

Courtney White’s book is guaranteed to stimulate all kinds of innovation and a sense that if we tune in to alternatives, we just may resolve the carbon riddle and experience the fringe benefit of keeping each other well.