“Looking across the landscape on a spring day at the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agricultural Facility, most people would simply see a flat, mostly barren field. But Scow, a microbial ecologist and director of this experimental farm at the University of California, Davis sees a living thing brimming with potential The ground beneath this field not only contains living things, it is also alive.
Scow compares the soil to the human body with its own system of “organs” that work together for its overall health. And, like us, it needs good food, water, and care to live up to its potential.
UC Davis professor Kate Scow (center) works with UC Davis students during a Soil Science 100 class at the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agricultural Facility in Davis, California. They collected soils from natural grasslands, a conventional agriculture plot, and an organic plot to test for carbon storage, infiltration rate, microbial diversity, and soil type. Photo credit: Gregorio Urquiaga
Solutions under our feet
Farmers and gardeners have long sung the praises of the soil. For the rest of us, it is practically invisible. But increased awareness of the soil’s ability to sequester carbon and act as a defense against climate change is gaining new attention and admiration for a resource most of us treat like garbage.
El suelo puede almacenar potencialmente entre 1.500 y 5.500 millones de toneladas de carbono al año en todo el mundo. Eso equivale a entre 5 y 20 mil millones de toneladas de dióxido de carbono. Si bien es significativo, sigue siendo solo una fracción de las 32 mil millones de toneladas de dióxido de carbono emitidas cada año por la quema de combustibles fósiles.
El suelo es solo una de las muchas soluciones necesarias para enfrentar el cambio climático.
Pero lo bueno de los suelos saludables, dijo Scow, es que crearlos no solo ayuda a combatir el cambio climático, sino que también brinda múltiples beneficios para la salud agrícola, humana y ambiental.
“With soil, there are so many things happening that are so close to us, that are so interesting and multifaceted, that affect our lives in so many ways, and are just under our feet,” he said.
How the soil sequesters carbon
The soil sequesters carbon through a complex process that begins with photosynthesis. A plant extracts carbon from the atmosphere and returns it to the unharvested soil in the form of residue and root secretions. This feeds the microbes in the soil. Microbes transform carbon into the building blocks of soil organic matter and help stabilize it by sequestering carbon.
“You can’t sequester carbon without microbes,” Scow said. “They are much more important than we imagine.” “