The French “0.4% Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate”

This is a remarkable, and heretofore unprecedented, opportunity for the vigorous NGO community to join forces with principal national negotiators. The French “0.4% Initiative, Soils for Food Security and Climate” is a voluntary plan with no floor or ceiling commitments. It could become quite competitive as different nations report back in future years. It will encourage underdeveloped countries with poor soils to participate, because of its low cost and because poor soils can often demonstrate more rapid carbon sequestration and soil fertility increase than high SOC soils. Furthermore, there is an existing 46 member international organization, the Global Research Alliance for Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA), which can support implementation of the French “Initiative” in many different countries. Also the USDA gives significant support to the GRA.

Here is a link to the French .4% Initiative.

Here is a post from WanQing Zhou, Research Associate, at the Worldwatch Institute, with an explanation and discussion of the French 0.4% Initiative.

Martha’s Letter to the President on Paris Climate Negotiations

Dear Mr. President,

Thank you for your focus on global warming; however, I urge you to seize the opportunity to tap agriculture’s potential for mitigating climate change.

After 36 years with the U.S. Foreign Service, my husband and I ventured into grassfed beef farming. It was a giant learning experience. We practiced management intensive grazing (MIG); daily we rotated our steers to fresh grass-clover paddocks. We used no fertilizers or pesticides. Yet each year our pastures grew lush and our steers had good weight gain. And each year there was a growing market for our delicious and nutritious beef.

Soil tests in 2007 showed that we had doubled soil organic matter in 5 years from 4.1 to 8.3%. That meant photosynthesis had been drawing carbon from the atmosphere into our pastures. Analysis showed a net carbon sequestration. That finding started our family thinking about environment, climate change, and healthful foods.
In June 2004 National Geographic reported that conventional production of one steer used 283 gal. oil from birth to finish. In contrast, two colleagues in the Northeast Pasture Consortium stated that average lifetime use per grassfed steer on their farms was just 15-17 gal.!

The key to these findings is carbon. Drawing more carbon from the atmosphere into soils and minimizing oxidation of soil carbon will enhance soil fertility and also the volume and quality of food production. (Ref: 2013 UNCTAD, “Wake Up Before It Is Too Late. Make Agriculture Truly Sustainable Now For Food Security in a Changing Climate.”)

Somewhere between 30 and 50% of soil organic carbon has been lost to atmospheric CO2 in the last 100 years (Rattan Lal, OSU Ext. Fact Sheet). This is significant for two reasons: First, as we develop strategies to mitigate climate change, agriculture must be included and counted as a major source, and potential sink, of atmospheric CO2. Second, through thoughtful organic crop farming and MIG for livestock, significant amounts of CO2 can be naturally and inexpensively returned to the world’s soils. Because of the resulting benefits to human health and nutrition, and the potential to reduce anthropogenic CO2 emissions, I strongly encourage that you direct your negotiators at the upcoming IPCC convention in Paris to work these concepts into U.S. climate proposals.

Yours sincerely,

Martha Holdridge

How Does GRASS POWER Support Carbon Sequestration?

Grass plays an essential role in both carbon and nitrogen sequestration.  In pastures, grass supplies the green plant material that is essential to the biochemical reaction, photosynthesis, which pulls carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and draws it into the soil as soil organic carbon (SOC). That wondrous process, an important form of carbon sequestration, increases the organic matter in and the fertility of the soil. In grass/clover pastures, nitrogen from the air is drawn into the root nodules of the clover. These nodules then fertilize both the clover and the grass. Managing for carbon sequestration in conjunction with nitrogen sequestration is an economical way to achieve a fertile soil that, with adequate rainfall, produces excellent forage growth.

The power of grass can be enhanced by skilled rotational grazing management of cattle on grass/clover pastures. Daily moves of cattle from one small paddock to the next supply dung, urine, and saliva fertilization, and also an intensified sequester of carbon and nitrogen into each paddock. This process causes partial root die-back, thus creating additional organic matter in the soil of each successive paddock. This organic matter is 57% carbon, and if the soil is not disturbed, can become long-lasting soil organic carbon (SOC).

The power of grass is further enhanced by organic management. The absence of chemical fertilizers and pesticides facilitates a softer soil that roots can penetrate more easily and a more vigorous life for the many important critters in the soil.