Global Organics Articles Header

Organic is Good for the Earth- The PROOF is in the Soil

It’s always exciting when new information comes out of the scientific community that proves organic farming methods are indeed beneficial for the earth and its inhabitants.

A recent breakthrough study by Northeastern University in collaboration with The Organic Center showed that soil on organic farms traps carbon better than soil on conventional farms. And even more important, soil from organic farms had 26% greater potential for long-term carbon storage. This is significant as carbon removed from the atmosphere helps mitigate climate change.

This was the first time a study measured humic substances, which are a type of organic matter that store carbon for a long time. Two components of humic substances, fulvic and humic acid were 150% and 44% higher respectively in organic soils than in conventional soils. The more humic substances the longer carbon is kept out of the atmosphere, this is not temporary storage!

soil  - organically farmed field soil - conventionally farmed field

According to the Ecological Society of America, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere has grown by 30% over the last 150 years. Carbon exists in many forms, predominantly as plant biomass, soil organic matter and as carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere and dissolved in seawater.

Most scientists believe that there is a direct relationship between the increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and rising global temperatures. One proposed method to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide is to increase carbon sequestration, the long-term storage of carbon in oceans, soils, vegetation and geologic formations. Although oceans store most of earth’s carbon, soils contain almost 75% of the carbon pool on land – three times more than the amount stored in living plants and animals.Since 40% of the earth’s ice-free surface is used as pastureland and cropland, the soil in agricultural production offers the perfect place for carbon sequestration.

For those of you that need a simple review… here’s how soil rich in organic matter removes carbon from the air and stores it in the soil.

  1. Green plants use sunlight, carbon dioxide and water to make food for the plant in the form of carbon-based sugars.

  2. The sugar in the plant roots goes out into the soil and feeds bacteria and fungi in the soil. These microorganisms then transform organic matter and soil minerals into nutrients that feed the plant.

  3. During this exchange between the plant and the microorganisms in the soil, root sugars and organic matter that are consumed by the bacteria and fungi are converted into more stable materials that help store carbon in the soil.

A number of studies have shown that organic farming methods increase the soil organic matter and therefore soil health. In fact, in the Northeastern study found that soil on organic farms has 13 percent higher organic matter. This doesn’t happen in conventional agriculture as techniques such as deep-tilling, mono-cropping and rampant use of toxic synthetic fertilizers and pesticides deplete soil of carbon, releasing it into the atmosphere.

Regenerative organic farming practices restore degraded soil. Take for example techniques used by our partner the Native Green Cane Project in Brazil. They developed a sugar cane harvester that took the unwanted leaves surrounding the sugar cane stalk and put them back on the ground as mulch, thereby protecting and fertilizing the soil. Their tractors use low-pressure tires so not to disturb the microorganisms in the soil. And all by-products of the milling process are returned to the fields as natural fertilizer. Over the years these practices have increased the organic matter content of the soil from 1% to almost 4%, similar to virgin tropical soil.

So if you are looking for some great information to share with your customers, be it on your package or website, the story of organic soil is a best seller. Agriculture doesn’t have to be a source of global climate change; it can be a solution.

You can read about the Northeastern soil study here

Or watch The Organic Center video