Regenerative Agriculture: Soil Can Save The Planet

If you tune in to conversations about state-of-the-art organic agriculture these days, you’re sure to hear the use of the term, “regenerative”. Every mission-driven, natural foods company is scrambling to make sure its organic ingredients are grown with regenerative agricultural practices in place. At Teeccino, we’re taking this movement just as seriously as we take the organic certification of our herbal ingredients. Here’s why:

Rich, fertile topsoil with deep humus has the ability to store millions of tons of carbon right under our feet. Plants pull carbon out of the atmosphere via photosynthesis and sink it into the ground. Humus, the organic matter in healthy soil, acts like a sponge, absorbing both water and carbon while supporting the life of plants and the trillions of microorganisms that live in the soil.

It’s called the carbon cycle. If we humans use it to rebuild and regenerate our topsoil, it can save life as we know it from the disastrous warming trend that is accelerating extinction of so many life forms from mammals to insects. And it can be done relatively quickly. Farmers using regenerative practices to build topsoil are finding they can build multiple inches of topsoil in a season.

Here’s an interesting fact that surprised me: Agriculture since the mid-1800’s has been responsible for losing twice as much carbon into the atmosphere than burning fossil fuels! Boggles the mind, doesn’t it? Especially since the 1970’s, modern agricultural practices are releasing carbon at a greatly accelerated rate and at the same time, farmers are losing topsoil at alarming volumes. No topsoil, no plants to eat!

For Earth Day 2019, we’d like to share some things we at Teeccino are doing to ensure that our herbal ingredients are grown with regenerative soil practices. We’d also like to give you ways that you can support the regenerative agricultural movement. Together, we can join forces to regenerate the planet’s topsoil, draw carbon out of our atmosphere and store it in our soil. We can reverse this global warming trend in our lifetime while improving the health of the plants we eat and thus our own health as well.

Regenerative agriculture and Teeccino’s herbal ingredients:

The majority of Teeccino’s ingredients come from tree crops. This is fortuitous because trees are permanent plants that continue to draw down carbon from the atmosphere year after year without disturbing the soil. When soil is tilled, a tremendous amount of carbon gets released into the atmosphere.

But we can go one step further. Many orchards leave the soil bare between trees so that weeds don’t compete with the trees for nutrients. Cover crops are a tried-and-true organic agricultural technique of improving soil health. Cover crops that are legumes sink nitrogen into the soil to provide this essential nutrient to the trees. If the plants are turned into the soil, they become “green manure” that builds the humus content.

We are checking with our date, fig and almond farmers to see if they are employing cover crops between the trees so that topsoil is regenerated. We hope that providing information about regenerative soil techniques can help upgrade practices to improve soil health.

By the way, carob is a leguminous tree and thus farmers plant it in their organic fields to help nourish the crops they grow. Wild carob trees that grow in the mountains surrounding the Mediterranean are also a significant source of organic carob pods. In the wild, trees like carob and the ramón tree in Guatemala are part of a permanent forest cover that regenerates the soil as part of nature’s carbon cycle.

Two of our main ingredients are organic crops planted annually: barley and chicory roots. Once again, we’re lucky in that barley is often used as a cover crop as it has thick roots, crowds out weeds, and recycles more nitrogen back into the soil when its remains are turned into the fields after harvest. Barley can be a “no-till” crop.

Our organic barley is grown in Germany by family farmers. We are inquiring if it is planted without tilling and if the stalks are turned back into the soil. Knowing the Germans, I suspect they use every bit of the barley plant to their advantage!

Chicory is a root crop that needs the field tilled before planting. The young seedlings can’t compete with weeds and organic agriculture doesn’t use herbicides. Our organic chicory is grown in India by smallholder family farmers who weed by hand. Chicory is rotated with other crops grown to feed the family. We work with a team of organic agricultural specialists in India to advise and teach best organic practices to the farmers in order to increase their yields and the health of their soil.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Buy food from organic farmers who care for their soil. How do you know if they do? If you frequent your local Farmer’s Market, you’ll find organic family farmers who build their topsoil as part of their farm’s regime. Organic agriculture is designed to grow healthy plants by building healthy soil. However, big business has entered the organic market too. Although we welcome more farmland being converted to organic practices, it’s the family farms that are at the vanguard of the regenerative agricultural movement.
  2. Read about regenerative agriculture and spread the word. I highly recommend this informative and interesting book, “Cows Save The Planet” by the investigative journalist, Judith Schwartz. The book should have been entitled, Soil Can Save The Planet, but I guess the publishers thought cows were more appealing. You’ll be amazed reading her tales of the scientists, ranchers and farmers all over the planet who are working to regenerate our soil. Don’t have time to read the book? Here’s an article by Judith in a Yale University publication that sums up the latest soil science:
  3. Do you have some land? Even a small plot can help save the planet. Grow trees that give food. Sacrifice your lawn for herbs, flowers, and any perennial plants with deep roots. Grow legumes. Keep your soil covered with mulch. As one organic farmer advised me twenty years ago while regarding my heavy clay soil with thin topsoil, “Just keep covering the ground with more and more mulch very year. Eventually you’ll have good topsoil.” I took his advice and I can say now that my land has many inches of topsoil!
  4. Support organizations teaching farmers, ranchers, and other thought leaders about carbon sequestration in the soil. Here are a few I recommend:

Some more interesting facts:

  • There are 2500 billion tons of carbon stored in the planet’s soil whereas plants and animals only store 560 billion tons. That’s why there is more carbon in the soil than there is in forests!
  • Carbon rich soil stores water like a sponge and then releases it down into ground water storage. It can protect land from floods and replenish our clean water supply. Too much fresh water now runs off of our asphalt-covered cities and our conventional farmland taking with it toxins and topsoil, polluting our rivers and oceans. If instead, systems to retain water in our farmlands and by creating soil our own homes helps restore the rain cycle too!
  • World Wildlife Fund estimates that we are losing 30-37 million acres of forest every year. Think 36 football fields every minute! Loss of forest cover is creating drought as forest respiration produces vapor that later becomes rain.
  • Desertification is rapidly growing as rain cycles are disturbed through loss of forests and increasing land covered by asphalt and or left bare. A single tree can transmit 26 gallons of water on a sunny day which adds to the cooling of the atmosphere as well as contributing to the rain cycle.

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