The Soil Will Save Us

Deano Martin | Friday, 11th July 2014
An exploration of carbon sequestering through agriculture and food production.
Author: Kristin Ohlson
Publisher: Rodale
Publication year: 2014
RRP: £14.50

This is another book that looks at carbon; however the author chooses to focus on agriculture and food production. That narrower range allows her to look at soil management strategies in a little more depth.

Whilst there is a lot worth reading, I was particularly blown away by the multi-species cover crop section. The descriptions of soil changes, measured and recorded, have given me lots to think about, and prompted me to do more digging into the topic. I suspect that cover crop 'cocktails' will be making an appearance on my land this year after a bit more research.

Other experiments looked at the performance improvement using unturned compost, and a huge increase in soil carbon over two years using cover crops. Both experiments were conducted with the help of a molecular biologist from New Mexico State University. The conclusion that they drew was that if their results could be replicated, all of the anthropomorphic CO2 being produced could be offset on 11% of the world's cropland, and that twice that amount of land is fallow at any time. A staggering claim.

There is a decent sized section looking at Allan Savory, and his Holistic Planned Grazing, and some of the other examples in the book use techniques promoted by him. Just as in Grass, Soil, Hope, I was struck by the results of the synergy between progressive farmers and ranchers, and progressive scientists. With little or no 'big business' finance behind research like this, it probably takes people with a passion to bring this type of research to a wider audience.

The only criticism that I have of the book is that there are no links to the research behind the stories, which makes it difficult to investigate the evidence. The same applies to the projects and participants themselves. Some, like Gabe Brown, have their own website, and it would have been useful to have had links to those too. I only have an advance copy to review, and perhaps this type of detail will be included in the published version.

The Soil Will Save Us is a good little book that provides optimism and ideas, both of which are badly needed.

Further resources

Soil restoration - using plants to fix nitrogen in the ground

Responding to crisis - regenerative agriculture and other solutions

Watch: How to Green the Worlds Deserts and Reverse Climate Change

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