By now, most of us have an idea of how beneficial organic foods are for our bodies and for the soil. As it turns out, organic practices might also be a weapon against global climate change.
For nearly 30 years, the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, has conducted scientific studies of organic and conventional farming practices. The institute’s Farming Systems Trial is the nation’s oldest side-by-side study, with results firmly on the side of organic farming, which does not use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, to combat global warming.
The study shows that organic or regenerative farming can remove 7,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year and place it in one acre of farmland. The institute translates that to mean that if all 434 million acres of American cropland are converted to organic practices, it would be like clearing the roads of 217 million cars, or 88 percent of the nation’s vehicles.
“The way that we farm may be the single biggest and most undervalued way that we can mitigate global warming,” says Timothy LaSalle, Rodale’s CEO. A former agriculture professor at Cal Poly, LaSalle recently took the top spot at the institute, saying he believes Rodale’s 60-plus years of leadership in organics can offer solutions to many of today’s problems.
“We’ve shown that organic practices can do better than anyone thought at sequestering carbon,” says Paul Hepperly, research director at the institute, “and could counteract up to 40 percent of global greenhouse gas output.”
Hepperly says soil-building crops and composts help build carbon levels in the soil while keeping up productivity.
“The world is taking climate change seriously,” LaSalle says. “(Politicians) are being questioned about their environmental platforms. Major corporations are trying to be green in practice and products. Timing is everything, and 21st-century regenerative farming is the brightest hope for our plant to reverse the effects of global warming and to protect and improve the health of farmers, global citizens and future generations.”
Rodale Institute’s new Web site,
www.Hero-Farmers.org, offers a course and more information on organic practices and global warming. For more information on the institute, visit the main Web site at www.RodaleInstitute.org, or call 610-683-1400.