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Carbon Credit Efforts Improve Soil Health, Boost Revenues
USAgNet - 01/20/2022

Farms across the US are seeing improved soil health and higher crop yields after participating in carbon farming programs that produce nature-based carbon credits sold as offsets in the voluntary carbon market, participating farmers said Jan. 13.

“The water-holding capacity in the soil is built up by that soil’s microbial action, and those microbes need the carbon in order to grow,” said Paul Overby, who farms 1,900 acres of grains in North Dakota near the Canadian border, during agriculture technology firm Indigo’s carbon farming strategies virtual workshop.

According to Farms.com, Overby was an early adopter of Indigo’s carbon farming program, Carbon by Indigo, which began partnering with farmers in 2019 to help them start generating and selling carbon credits to buyers.

Programs like Indigo’s encourage farmers to adopt land-use practices that can increase the carbon-capturing capacity of soil. The benefits of these are twofold. First, farmers can create supplementary revenue streams through selling their credits, which are verified by carbon offset registries, to companies looking to offset their carbon footprints. Second, farmers can improve soil health by adopting the regenerative land use practices required by the registries, like using cover crops, diverse crop rotation and no-till farming.

The northern region of North Dakota experienced a severe drought throughout the growing season last year, having recorded just 5.5 inches of rain. But Overby’s field was nonetheless able to produce above average wheat yields that year, about 60 bushels/acre, he said. And that’s all thanks to the increased carbon being stored in his soil.

“The carbon that you store in your soil becomes a food source,” Overby said. “It’s a currency of life, and that creates microbial action that builds up the soil structure to hold water.” That increased microbial action creates better soil conditions that promote crop growth, thus reducing the farmer’s need to rely on fertilizer or phosphorus inputs, he added. “Carbon is the building block that makes all that happen,” Overby said.

Mark Nault, a wheat farmer in northwest Oklahoma, noted similar results. He looks back on his earlier farming practices as “chemistry farming” – using chemical soil additives to augment growing conditions. Now, he classifies it as biology farming.


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