CARBON CYCLE: A REVIEW
1. Our business succeeds if we are successful at “carbon farming”. That is, we must raise the carbon content of our soils by building humus. The short definition for humus is: the organic component of soil formed by the decomposition of leaves and other plant material by soil microorganisms.
2. There are actually 3 forms of carbon in the soil and all are important. In order to get the ball rolling and “grow” as much carbon as conditions will allow, we must support the microbial communities that support our grasses, legumes, and forbs, which produce (grow) long chains of carbon molecules, mainly proteins, carbohydrates, and cellulose.
3. Rotational grazing by definition requires that grasslands be allowed to grow a stand of carbon rich plant material. Then you release cattle, in our case at a high density, on controlled areas rotated daily so that the cattle eat their fill of grass (proteins, carbohydrates, and cellulose) while thoroughly mowing a small area rather than nibbling across a large pasture. Not all of the grass is eaten; some gets matted down into the soil by the hoofs of the cattle. If the soil is moist (the more humus the more moisture) this action will cut the grass into the soil bringing it into contact with the microbial community living inside the “topsoil” or humus layer. The microbes go to work eating the grass and breaking it down, just as the cow eats and digests the grass.
4. Carbon molecules get converted and separated into various compounds. Polymers are one group of compounds, which are able to “store” and release water, but are otherwise stable. Because we have access to wood ash we will have freed carbon that is ready to bind with minerals creating aggregated polymers and this carbon will remain as locked carbon.
5. Nitrogen, like Carbon and Hydrogen, is another element that plants must have a steady supply of in order to grow. Our atmosphere is 78%+- nitrogen. However, unlike carbon dioxide plants are not able to absorb nitrogen out of the air. Yet the chemical process we all know as photosynthesis will not work unless nitrogen is present in the form of a nitrate or nitrite which means the element nitrogen must bind with either 2 or 3 atoms of oxygen before a plant can conduct photosynthesis. Very specific microbes called Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter combine atmospheric sourced nitrogen with oxygen, which the plant is able to absorb and use the nitrogen and oxygen to grow plant material.
The more diverse the microbial communities carrying out the various chemical transfers needed to create plant growth, the faster plants will grow. The more humus your soil has the more of these microbial communities your soil can house. The more humus you have the more carbon is available for soil structure (just like your house is your support structure) the more prolific the cycle of life becomes.
This gives the average American a direct way to offset their personal CO2 emissions. We estimate the number of Americans interested in finding a way they can personally do something that helps solve the atmospheric imbalance is in the 10’s of millions of people. Investing their buying power in a regenerative solution is a powerful statement for the future. The beauty of this investment is that the investment channel is each person’s own body. The more they consume our nutrient dense, organically raised and humanely processed products the more they are becoming the solution to the climate crisis.
We can guess or we can take the time to identify who is living in our soils’ microbial communities. As in all communities there are microbes who rob and kill or steal the life-giving microbes and therefore we will employ a soil microbiologist able to identity the microbial communities in a given location. This data will direct how we fine tune (that is micro-manage) various locations throughout our holdings.
As professional herbicide applicators for over 30 years, we performed thousands of acres of directed herbicide treatments resulting in selected plant control. We are experts in site micro-management of large tracts of land. Reducing or eliminating one species of plants in order to “release” another species of plants was one of our specialties. This history of micro-management is perhaps our core talent, which has prepared us for this venture. The difference is we could see with our eyes the plants that we needed to make split second decisions about. Carbon farming takes this to another level, the microscopic, demanding that we use more technology to conduct our business.
By now you can see that we have moved way beyond simply “needing to know the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium available to plants” in a given soil location and profile. What we are measuring is the vitality of the microbial communities that are at work in our topsoil so that we can make adjustments in our forage management in order to support a steady increase in microbes who in turn generate new soils rich in humus for us as they transfer atmospheric CO2 back into our soils.
These microbes also support photosynthesis so that the two oxygen molecules that are attached to create Carbon Dioxide get released back into the atmosphere as quickly as possible and they also do their part in guiding the freed carbon molecule into forming the root system that delivers all the necessary minerals and water to promote our forage of perennial native tallgrasses and legumes.
Certain strains of fungi also provide the network that transport the former airborne carbon into new locations in the soil. One of the main locations being the mycelium network that moves carbon, water and various minerals around. It becomes self feeding! Fungi also grab released oxygen from the CO2 that the plant absorbed and attach them to a nitrogen molecule making NO2 and or NO3 and send that nitrogen back into the plant’s “blood stream” so that it can exchange more oxygen for more CO2. That nitrogen then joins new plant growth that in 30 days or so will feed our cattle again.
The beat goes on and on and this is how the Carbon Cycle works and why it is our best way to lower atmospheric CO2 and in the words of John Wick “cool the Planet”.
Our ability to go from 80 cow days per acre per year to 400 and then to 800 is dependent upon our management of this ancient natural process that nature developed for the planet millions of years ago.
All we are doing is using science and modern tools to quantify this process, understand who the players are and manage their environment so that they can multiply and feed us great tasting nutrient dense beef, poultry, pork and eggs at production rates that to some will seem impossible to achieve.
You just earned an A+ in Organic Biology by reading the above CARBON CYCLE REVIEW
In the words of Al Gore: “We can win this”.
Yes, we agree and this investment launches the first large-scale commercial Regenerative Agriculture business that is able to generate profits that insure its sustainability.
Yes, it is complicated, but so is building a house unless you have worked on a framing crew. To build a house you must know how to measure, work fractions, run power equipment, read blue prints, use a saw and a hammer. The CCC is nature’s framing crew, she is our boss.
Our area of engineering is biological in practice rather than mechanical and just like building construction, has formulas that when followed and understood can build a structure that will last a lifetime and more if cared for. Most of us can build a treehouse that may last a few years, or a doghouse, but much more than that and we need to be accomplished in understanding that discipline. Otherwise we will have a high rate of failures and misunderstandings.
One man in our industry, that is the industry of environmental restoration, has made it his mission to drill down into the core foundational understandings of our biological engineering. He does not like assumptions, he wants verifiable repeatable facts. His name is John Wick and he created the Marin County Carbon Project in 2007 and has expanded this NGO to study carbon sequestration via natural systems development into a series of links. This chain John has forged links the power and resources of the University of California at Berkley with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Services and the Governor’s Office. New funding programs are being implemented to fund ranchers who enter into a 10 year contract overseen by the local NRCS employing carbon sinking practices that our Federal Government now values.
By teaming up with U.C. Berkley, John is able to verify and define what practices are accomplishing what and where understanding is lacking and needs improving.
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