30 juin 2020 Cédric de Solenvie

Soil offers key to curbing climate change

Efforts to boost carbon capture could offset increases in greenhouse gas emissions

Sarah Singla is a cereal farmer who does not know how to plough. That is a sign not of professional laxness, but of her dedication to the conservation agriculture that her father embraced. Since taking over the 100-hectare family farm in the southern French department of Aveyron a decade ago, Ms Singla has further developed the practices he initiated in 1980.

Conservation agriculture aims to minimise or suppress tillage, ensure that soil always has a cover crop, and use crop rotation to enhance soil fertility. The advantages, says Ms Singla, are manifold: “It uses less fossil fuel and machinery; there is less erosion and more clean water and air, more nutrient-dense food, more biodiversity — and happy farmers.”

Increasing the organic content of soils, as this way of farming does, also mitigates climate change: since the organic matter comprises plant material, and organisms that feed on it, the effect is to lock away the carbon drawn from the atmosphere during photosynthesis.

Carbon capture in soil has been hailed as an underrated solution to the problem of climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the 4p1000 initiative, headquartered in the southern French city of Montpellier, the world’s soil contains 1,500 gigatonnes of carbon in the form of organic material.

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