How farmers are locking CO2 in soil with regenerative farming
For the last five years, farmer Trey Hill has planted year-round cover crops and refrained from tilling the soil.
The plants that blanket his fields all year long help to draw in carbon dioxide and lock it into the soil. Hill doesn’t turn over his soil every fall after a harvest, which prevents the trapped carbon dioxide from escaping back into the atmosphere.
Hill, who owns Harborview Farms in Maryland, said his yields are comparable to what he would have gotten through conventional farming. But, since starting to farm regeneratively, he’s noticed that his soil is a lot healthier and his crops a lot more resistant to pests and extreme weather such as floods and droughts.
Besides selling his harvest of soy, wheat and soybeans, Hill is also generating revenue from selling credits through Nori, a small carbon marketplace based in Seattle.
Lately, there’s been an explosion of private marketplaces like Nori and Indigo Ag. Here, companies and individuals eager to offset their own carbon footprints can purchase carbon credits from farmers who have sequestered CO2.
The Biden administration has also earmarked $30 billion to help pay farmers to implement sustainable practices and capture carbon in their soil. McKinsey estimates that the market for carbon credits could be worth more than $50 billion in 2030.
But regenerative farming is still practiced on a very small amount of U.S. farmland. And carbon markets have yet to prove that they can be an effective incentive to get more farmers to adopt the environmentally friendly practices.