In the beginning God provided the resources for life of every kind on Earth, and God said that it was good (Genesis 1). After creating humankind, God set us apart from the rest of creation by giving us the responsibility to both till and keep the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). When humankind inherited the garden, the soil was “good” and furthermore, there were natural processes for maintaining the fertility. Now, much of the soil around the world is degraded, and to make matters worse, because of human agriculture and deforestation, about 1/3 of the carbon that was in the soil is now in the atmosphere and increasing global warming.
In that regard, around the world there is a growing movement to study, understand, and put into practice more natural and resilient ways to grow food. A confounding factor is that many of the approaches that might be taken to increase productivity will have the opposite effect because of global warming. To avoid the most serious consequences of global warming, emissions from both burning fossil fuels and engaging in agriculture must be reduced, and in addition, carbon needs to be withdrawn from the atmosphere and sequestered into the soil.
Carbon farming are processes designed to maximize agriculture’s potential for removing excess greenhouse gases from the atmosphere into the soil, while building fertility and increasing productivity.
Research from University of California, Berkeley [Marin Carbon Farming Project (MCF)] has shown that “a one-time application of a ½ inch layer of compost on grazed rangeland increased long-term carbon storage by 1 ton of carbon per hectare (2.47 acres) and increased forage production by 40-70%” (Ryals and Silver, 2013). From this research scientists have calculated that by covering with ½ inch of compost just 5% of California’s degraded, grazed rangeland, they could remove an amount of carbon roughly equal to that released in providing a year’s worth of energy used by California’s homes and businesses.
Agricultural conservation practices such as those being developed through projects like MCF are leading to hopeful ways for humankind to be successful in fulfilling our call to keep the garden.