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Science

Composting en masse Helping Fight the Green Fight

Neighbor's compostWe’ve spoken often about those areas in industry that are contributing most to the current climate change. However an industry that has been swept under the radar is the agriculture industry. Not only does it too expel its own worth of emissions, but it could very well be the answer to a lot of our problems.

We’ve seen what their fertilizers are doing to the outlet of the Mississippi in the Gulf of Mexico; creating a red tide larger than the state of Rhode Island. Continued expansion has seen native lands destroyed and in such carbon sinks and vital ecosystems disappear.

But now, according to new research published in a special issue of Waste Management & Research, organic fertilizers could help agricultural land increase the amount of carbon stored in their soils.

All of that may sound technical, but the long and the short of it is that composting could help keep carbon inside the soils, rather than letting it escape.

God Bless Compost!

This avenue of carbon sequestration is not only ancient years old, but recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well as the European Commission; nice of them to catch on!

OK, I could be being a little bit snarky, but the point is that something many of us have been doing in our own small way simply because we knew it was good for our gardens is now good for the environment as a whole.

At least one estimate of the impact this approach could yield shows that assuming 20% of the surface agricultural land in the European Union was used as a carbon sink it could contribute 8.6% to the total EY emission-reduction objective.

“An increase of just 0.15% in organic carbon in arable soils in a country like Italy would effectively imply the sequestration of the same amount of carbon within soil that is currently released into the atmosphere in a period of one year through the use of fossil fuels,” write Enzo Favoino and Dominic Hogg, authors of the paper.“Furthermore, increasing organic matter in soils may cause other greenhouse gas-saving effects, such as improved workability of soils, better water retention, less production and use of mineral fertilizers and pesticides, and reduced release of nitrous oxide.”

This is all good and well though, but as with many discoveries of late, it is just that, a discovery, and nothing more. Capitalizing on this however is an entirely different matter, considering that the current agricultural trends actually end up depleting the soils ability to hold carbon.

But according to the authors of the article, this loss of carbon sink is not an unsolvable problem. Composting could actually contribute in two ways; increasing the chance of sequestering carbon within the soil as well as building up the soils quality. All that is needed is the application of organic fertilizers.

“What organic fertilizers can do is reverse the decline in soil organic matter that has occurred in relatively recent decades by contributing to the build-up in the stable organic fraction in soils, and having the effect, in any given year, of ensuring that more carbon is held within the soil,” they explain.

Of course, it is not as simple as throwing your scraps to the garden instead of the dog, but hopefully in time, people like Favoino and Hogg will be able to turn this in to a plan that has viable outcomes. In the meantime, I have to go take the compost out!




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