Carbon farming… it’s not just for farmers

Carbon farming… it’s not just for farmers

Current events have certainly brought climate change to the forefront of discussion. This blog series is intended to guide the reader to better understand the role soil, plants and the soil microbiome plays in carbon sequestration.

There is a plaque at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon which describes the lives of ancient native Americans known as the Kayenta Anasazi, ancestors to the modern-day Hopi tribe. These ancient native Americans farmed, hunted, and lived along and within the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River for hundreds of years, but something changed 1150 years ago to force the Anasazi to move. Archaeologists suspect that it was the lack of rainfall, forcing them to abandon their way of life in the Grand Canyon – can we use the phrase climate change?

As the adage goes, if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute and it will change. I’m sure you are quite familiar with this saying.  Changes in weather patterns - long or short in duration, forecasted events e.g. La Niña which cause drier than normal weather patterns, or El Niño years which cause wetter than average years in the U.S. or a natural disaster……we adapt.

The question I had was, what about lawn and gardens and the surface area of those spaces and how they are managed.  I came across an article titled, ‘Looking for Lawns’ by R. Lindsey at who wrote about the research conducted by Cristina Milesi, PhD., who asked the same question.  Do people think about the impact of their lawns in the big ecological climate change picture? We associate “fertilizer” and/or “irrigation” with food crops. We associate “carbon cycle” with fossil fuels and deforestation. As people convert natural landscapes to human-tailored ones, we change the cycling of water and carbon dramatically.   As populations grow, municipalities are restricting water usage as water supplies are under increasing pressure.  Milesi believes there are good reasons to think about the impact of lawns on the national water and carbon cycle.  At the time of the publication there were approximately 8.9 M irrigated corn acres and today there are over 11 M according to the National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS).  Additionally, Milesi estimated more surface area is devoted to lawns, which includes residential, commercial and golf courses, than any other single irrigated crop in the US, three times the number of acres than that of irrigated corn.  Although the article was published in 2005, it still holds true that there are good reasons to think about the impact of lawns on the water and carbon cycle.

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