soil development
Our best shot at cooling the planet might be right under our feet
Studies suggest that regenerating soil by turning our backs on industrial farming holds the key to tackling climate change
By Jason Hickel

The linked article tells a story which, for me, is a broken record. I’ve been chanting and murmuring for months to anybody who will listen, “The Soil Will Save Us. The Soil Will Save Us,” borrowing the title of a book written by Kristin Ohlson. The problem is big ag. Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta and all their creepy cousins are controlling the agenda. They are totally opposed to changing farming methods that would enhance and improve the soil, because those techniques threaten their revenues, profits, business and existence. The big boys, with their deep pockets lined with cash for the world’s politicians, are winning.

Here are some excepts from this article that might explain my mantra:

Soil is the second biggest reservoir of carbon on the planet, next to the oceans. It holds four times more carbon than all the plants and trees in the world. But human activity like deforestation and industrial farming – with its intensive ploughing, monoculture and heavy use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides – is ruining our soils at breakneck speed, killing the organic materials that they contain. Now 40% of agricultural soil is classed as “degraded” or “seriously degraded”. In fact, industrial farming has so damaged our soils that a third of the world’s farmland has been destroyed in the past four decades.

As our soils degrade, they are losing their ability to hold carbon, releasing enormous plumes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

There is, however, a solution. Scientists and farmers around the world are pointing out that we can regenerate degraded soils by switching from intensive industrial farming to more ecological methods – not just organic fertiliser, but also no-tillage, composting, and crop rotation. Here’s the brilliant part: as the soils recover, they not only regain their capacity to hold CO2, they begin to actively pull additional CO2 out of the atmosphere.

The science on this is quite exciting. A study published recently by the US National Academy of Sciences claims that regenerative farming can sequester 3% of our global carbon emissions. An article in Science suggests it could be up to 15%. And new research from the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, although not yet peer-reviewed, says sequestration rates could be as high as 40%. The same report argues that if we apply regenerative techniques to the world’s pastureland as well, we could capture more than 100% of global emissions. In other words, regenerative farming may be our best shot at actually cooling the planet.

The multinational corporations that run the industrial food system seem to be dead set against it because it threatens their monopoly power – power that relies on seeds linked to patented chemical fertilisers and pesticides. They are well aware that their methods are causing climate change, but they insist that it’s a necessary evil: if we want to feed the world’s growing population, we don’t have a choice – it’s the only way to secure high yields.

Scientists are calling their bluff. First of all, feeding the world isn’t about higher yields; it’s about fairer distribution. We already grow enough food for 10 billion people. In any case, it can be argued that regenerative farming actually increases crop yields over the long term by enhancing soil fertility and improving resilience against drought and flooding. So as climate change makes farming more difficult, this may be our best bet for food security, too.

Herb of the Week-Jasmine

Common names

Catalonian Jasmine
Common Jasmine
Common White Jasmine
Italian Jasmine
Jasmini Flos
Mo Li Hua
Poet’s Jasmine
Royal Jasmine
Spanish Jasmine

Jasmine belongs to the olive family, also known as Oleaceae. This shrub and vine genus comprises about 200 species that are indigenous to the warm temperate and tropical regions of Asia, Europe and Africa. Plants belonging to this genus are cultivated extensively for the typical aroma of their flowers.

Jasmines may be evergreen (having green leaves throughout the year) or deciduous (shedding their leaves in autumn). In addition, plants belonging to this genus may be of various types - erect, climbing shrubs, spreading or even vines. The leaves of these plants appear alternately or opposite to one another on the stem. In addition, the leaves of jasmine may be simple, pinnate or trifoliate. Usually, the flowers of jasmine measure about 2.5 cm (0.98 inch) across and their color may either be white or yellow. Although rare, in some cases jasmine flowers may even be somewhat reddish. The flowers appear in clusters and each cluster contains no less than three blooms. However, on many instances, solitary flowers can also appear at the terminal of the small branches.

Each jasmine flower comprises anything between four and nine petals, one to four ovules and generally two locules. Every flower contains two stamens having very small filaments. The bracts of the flowers are either ovate or linear, while the shape of the calyx is akin to that of a bell. Generally, the calyx is extremely aromatic. Jasmine bears berry-like fruits whose color changes to black when they mature.

Parts used

Oil, flowers.


Jasmine flowers and the essential oil obtained from them have numerous uses. While they are frequently used in perfumes and to flavour foods, a tea prepared from the flowers is taken internally for therapeutic purposes.

Keep reading



Pictured: Pitcher Plant, Rhododendron, Heather, and Bilberry

A calcifuge is a plant that does not tolerate alkaline (basic) soil. The word is derived from the Latin ‘to flee from chalk’. These plants are also described as ericaceous, as the prototypical calcifuge is the genus Erica (heaths). It is not the presence of carbonate or hydroxide ions per se that these plants cannot tolerate, but the fact that under alkaline conditions, iron becomes less soluble. Consequently, calcifuges grown on alkaline soils often develop the symptoms of iron deficiency, i.e. interveinal chlorosis of new growth. There are many horticultural plants which are calcifuges, most of which require an 'ericaceous’ compost with a low pH, composed principally of Sphagnum moss peat.

#soil science #chemistry #pH #science #botany

This is the rare Haleakalā silversword, which grows only on the high volcanic slopes of Maui, Hawaii- but for how much longer?

Unfortunately, these beautiful plants are declining rapidly as a consequence of a changing climate. Their environment has become too dry and warm for the seedlings to survive and older plants are also feeling the strain.

This isn’t the first time this subspecies has been under threat; its numbers dwindles in the early 1900s as a result of cows and collectors. Fortunately through conservation methods, numbers as low as 4,000 in 1920 were restored to a high of 61,000 in 1991. In 2010 however, the numbers were back down to 28,492; a substantial decline in just 19 years.

Warming temperatures combined with lower rainfall amounts are blamed on the plants ill health. They rely on rainfall delivered by trade winds, but there a fewer moisture laden winds than there were 40 years ago.

The fact that these unique plants have made home in a poorly developed volcanic soil is a testament to their biological adaptation, but, if the climate continues to warm at this rate, the fate of this subspecies does not look good – what a shame.


Photo courtesy of: Paul Krushelnycky, University of Hawaii at Manoa