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Organic Agriculture Builds Healthy Soil, Stores More Carbon, Study Says

Organizations in the agriculture industry may have a new reason for going organic: a new study indicates that soils on organic farms store away “appreciably” larger amounts of carbons, and for longer periods, than typical agricultural soils. The study is proof that not only do organic agricultural practices help fight climate change, but they also build healthy soils, according to the release from The National Soil Project at Northeastern University and the Organic Center.

On average, organic farms have 44% higher levels of humic acid, the component of soil that sequesters carbon over the long term, than soils not managed organically, the study found.

Leaders of the study, from the National Soil Project at Northeastern University and The Organic Center, contacted organic farmers who acted as “citizen scientists” to collect organic soil samples from throughout the country to compare with the conventional soil samples already in the National Soil Project’s data set. Altogether, the study measured 659 organic soil samples from 39 states and 728 conventional soil samples from all 48 contiguous states. It found that all components of humic substances were higher in organic than in conventional soils.

Agriculture is one of the main causes of the depletion of carbon in the soil and the increased presence of carbon in our atmosphere, according to a recent study published by the National Academy of Sciences. Organic farming can play a key role in restoring soil carbon and in reducing the causes of climate change, the new study suggests.

As organizations like Procter & Gamble, BASF, Wrangler and Timberland work with smallholder farmers – both in the US and across the world – to improve and increase crop yield for more sustainable supply chains, organic farming may be one of the practices they explore. In fact, the Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA), working with Timberland to reintroduce cotton as a crop in Haiti, will be introducing cotton varieties that adapt best to local conditions and organic cultivation. These are the crops that result in the highest quality cotton for cultivation in volume by smallholder farmers, the SFA says.

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