Keeping Up With Drawdown

Keeping Up With Drawdown

Critics are raving about a new read being dubbed the best-selling environmental book of 2017. Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, is not like countless other fear-mongering literary lectures about the perils of climate change. Instead, it’s packed full of solutions to climate change — 100 of them, to be exact. Each solution reduces greenhouse gases by avoiding emissions and/or by sequestering carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere, and is measured and modelled to determine its carbon impact through the year 2050, the total and net cost to society, and the total lifetime savings (or cost).

What’s exciting is to see that Regenerative Agriculture just fell short of the top 10! As the 11th most impactful solutions to address climate change, Regenerative Agriculture could result in a total reduction of 23.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide, from both sequestration and reduced emissions.

“From an estimated 108 million acres of current adoption, we estimate regenerative agriculture to increase to a total of 1 billion acres by 2050,” according to Drawdown. “This rapid adoption is based in part on the historic growth rate of organic agriculture, as well as the projected conversion of conservation agriculture to regenerative agriculture over time. This increase could provide a $1.9 trillion financial return by 2050 on an investment of $57 billion.”

Regenerative agricultural practices include:

  •  no tillage,

  •  diverse cover crops,

  • in-farm fertility (no external nutrients),

  • no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and

  • multiple crop rotations.

“Conventional wisdom has long held that the world cannot be fed without chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. Evidence points to a new wisdom: The world cannot be fed unless the soil is fed,” said Drawdown editor Paul Hawken. “Regenerative agriculture enhances and sustains the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content, which in turn improves productivity—just the opposite of conventional agriculture.”

According to Drawdown, farming as an industry is well positioned to make a significant impact in reversing climate change; Conservation Agriculture is #16 and Farmland Restoration is #23.

The book goes on to explain that regenerative agriculture increases carbon-rich soil organic matter. “The result: vital microbes proliferate, roots go deeper, nutrient uptake improves, water retention increases, plants are more pest resistant, and soil fertility compounds. Farms are seeing soil carbon levels rise from a baseline of 1 to 2 percent up to 5 to 8 percent over ten or more years, which can add up to 25 to 60 tons of carbon per acre.”

It is estimated that at least 50 percent of the carbon in the earth’s soils has been released into the atmosphere over the past centuries. Bringing that carbon back home through regenerative agriculture is one of the greatest opportunities to address human and climate health, along with the financial well-being of farmers.

As the book and companion website continue to draw attention, Sustainable Grain founder Brenda Tjaden said opportunities will continue to expand for farmers interested in transitioning cropland into regenerative, organic production:

“Regenerative organic farming has been gaining momentum globally, supported by strong research and new standards. With more food companies looking for regenerative organic production this is ideal time for western Canadian farmers to incorporate these practices.”