A Brief History of Agricultural Time
Our farming for over 10,000 years has been responsible for 2/3rds of our excess greenhouse gases. This soil carbon, converted to carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide began a slow stable warming that now accelerates with burning of fossil fuel. The unintended consequence has been the flowering of our civilization. Our science has now realized the consequences and developed a more encompassing wisdom.
Modern Agriculture has evolved in the ability to remove the limitations to plant growth, from burning forest for ash fertilizers, to bison bones, to Guano islands, then in 1913, to crafty Germans figuring out how to suck nitrogen from the air to now with natural gas derived fertilizers. These chemical fertilizers have over come nutrient limits to growth for 100 years.
NPK and the “Green Revolution” in genetics have brought us to where we are, all made possible by basically mining soil carbon stocks. So we have now hit a carbon limit in two distinct ways. The first is continued loss of soil carbon content, the second is fossil carbon energy cost. The present farming system spends ten cents of fossil energy delivering one cent of food energy.
We can not go back, but we can go forward with our newly acquired wisdom. Wise land management, Conservation Agriculture and afforestation can build back our soil carbon, Biochar allows the soil food web to build much more recalcitrant organic carbon, (living biomass & Glomalins) in addition to the carbon in the biochar.
We can rectify the carbon cycle, and beyond that, biochar systems serve the same healing function for the nitrogen and phosphorous cycles, toxicity in soils and sediments and as a feed additive cut the carbon foot print of livestock by 50%.