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Soil organic matter reduces/corrects global warming?  RSS feed

 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Found this quote on a permie website today:

Raise soil organic matter by one tenth of one percentage point a year, and we peg CO2 levels as of today. Raise them by 1.6% points and we get totally back to normal. Global warming is then finished.
--Allan Yeomans 1994



This boggles my mind. Does anyone have an explanation or more information? Wasn't sure what forum to put this under, so I placed it here.
 
Susan Monroe
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I'm not sure I understand this subject, but I'll tell you what I THINK is how it works.  Others can chime in and correct me.


Compost can be broken down completely by microorganisms to the point where it is humus, and can't be broken down any further, and the humus, water and carbon dioxide that is produced is trapped in the soil.

And if you plant something like a cover crop, and can do it with minimal exposure of the soil to the air and sunlight, the leaves of the plants will ABSORB CO2 during photosynthesis, and exhale oxygen. They use some of the CO2 for growing, but the rest is held in the soil.  Apparently, the more compost (broken down into humus) there is in the soil, the longer and better the soil will hold that CO2.  Some soils hold carbon better than others, mostly the soft ones like limestone and chalk.

Now, if that soil is turned and exposed to the sun, the microorganism population explodes and as they 'exhale', they breathe out carbon dioxide into the air, and less is held in the soil.

And there are microorganisms that make methane gas out of CO2 under no-oxygen conditions (swamps and stinking garbage and intestinal gas -- no kidding).  This methane gas can be trapped and piped to make a carbon-neutral gas substitute for burning and cooking.

I read that cattle farts are a major source of CO2. It kind of makes you wonder how they did the research on that... Did they put a plastic bag on the cow's butt and measure how much it produced, then multiplied that by the number of cows on earth?

Anyway, that's the way I understand that.

Sue


 
Leah Sattler
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that all makes sense to me sue. I ahve always wondered about the stats on methane production by cattle, I have actually been a bit suspicious of that data for a variety of reasons. always wondered of peta backed the research
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Thanks for the reply, Sue; that helps. The calculations of how much organic matter might be in the earth's soil to begin with, and then how much organic matter would need to be increased is still a type of estimation that is beyond my reckoning powers, that's for sure.

Now that I think of it, one of the best demos I ever saw on the total amount of food growing soil we have on earth was for children. The teacher stood in front of the kids with an apple as a representation of the earth. Since the earth is, what, 70%?, water, she cut away 3/4th of the apple and held a quarter chunk in her hand. Then, of that quarter chunk, she cut away 2/3rds of that for all the soil that is permafrost, or largely unable to grow food, is paved over or some such. Then, of the last little chunk, she shaved off the top of the apple just under the skin and kept this last, thin piece as the topsoil, the part of the earth that supports life.

I'm still grappling with how fragile that seems, and how powerful at the same time. Any way, thanks.
 
Leah Sattler
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what a poetic and frightening depiction of the earth!
 
Susan Monroe
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PETA probably didn't have to back it. 

The original 'studies' were probably veterinary students demonstrating with a Bic lighter to farmers actually how much gas a cow releases.  Some of them did it in wooden barns, I've heard.  WHOOSH!

And the cows probably didn't like it, either.

Sue
 
Gwen Lynn
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Ok, I'll admit it. I watch "irty Jobs". Don't hate me!

There was an episode filmed at a dairy farm. A quick shot of a propane torch aimed at the cows udder was how they sterilized the teats, just before hooking up the milking machine. It was standard practice & the cows appeared totally unfazed. Couldn't find a clip of this episode on youtube, dang it, & I don't recall if they mentioned anything about cow "gas".

Sue's post about the bic lighters & methane, etc. sure got me thinking about this. Why don't the dairy farms that do this, go BOOM!
 
Jeremy Bunag
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I had that same thought WenVan!  I saw that episode as well.  But now that I think of it, I've also seen that viral video of the idiot lighting his own fart.  It kinda looked similar to how Mike's flame quickly "lapped" the cow in the way the fire just torched for a second then lapped up the nearest structure (being the idiot's pants or the udder).

Probably not really an explosive hazard, unless you can get the flame inside, and I think sphincters would prevent that situation...

Too much analysis...sorry

-Jeremy
 
Gwen Lynn
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Not TMI for me, Jeremy, I like it when people use words like sphincter! 
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Okay, when I was a teen at a youth camp, the boys all ate as much bean dip as they could and then lit their methane bursts! The blue flames were amazing and hilarious!  We laughed until we cried and laughed some more! Leave it to teenagers!

So, yeah, estimating total cow methane is another computational wonder and a dirty job!
 
Susan Monroe
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Apply the flame from a propane torch to a cow's udder just because the farmers are too lazy to wash them properly is a sad (and vicious) commentary on how our food is produced.

Idiocy becomes the norm.

It makes one wonder about the learning curve, doesn't it?

Sue
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Just one more thing on the methane issue! I just read about a coalition between a local tribe and valley farmers in creating electricity from methane. It's in .pdf, on two different pages of the Monroe Monitor:

Scroll to the bottom of Page 1: http://www.monroemonitor.com/Issues/032409issue/0324091.pdf
Scroll to the middle right of Page 10: http://www.monroemonitor.com/Issues/032409issue/03240910.pdf
 
Leah Sattler
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Susan Monroe wrote:
Apply the flame from a propane torch to a cow's udder just because the farmers are too lazy to wash them properly is a sad (and vicious) commentary on how our food is produced.

Idiocy becomes the norm.

It makes one wonder about the learning curve, doesn't it?

Sue



it doesn't replace teat dips or washing it is only to singe the hair off to make it more sanitary. it is not painful. just as a fast low heat flame might envelop your hand.
 
Gwen Lynn
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I'm glad you mentioned this. It's (obviously) been a while since I'd seen that Dirty Jobs episode. I thought they mentioned it used as sterilization, but apparently it's just part of the process. Thanks for the correction, Leah! I googled before I had posted, but I guess I didn't look in all the right places.

I must say that (to me) it didn't look harmful or painful for the cows. They didn't even flinch. All in a days milk! I'm sure that PETA had a cow (pun intended!) and the show got tons of mail. The host is always talking about the hate mail he gets whenever his show involves practically anything to do with animals. I generally find the show informative & am always amazed at what people will do to make a living.  Most of which is way beyond what my sinuses/sense of smell could stand!
 
Brenda Groth
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it only makes sense to me if you put the good stuff back in the soil..that things wll turn around..and right them selves..sure people still put bad stuff in the soil and in the air..but we can do our part ..at least our little acres will be happy acres..

i saw on t v today that the water in most areas is contaminated with people flushing drugs down the toilets..good grief..so glad i have a deep well away from a city
 
Susan Monroe
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The farms are flushing chemicals into the water supply, too.

Someday when you have a goodly bit of money you don't know what to do with, have a complete analysis of your well water done.  You will probably be surprised, and not in a good way.

I was reading that rainwater (even acid rain) is twenty times cleaner than the cleanest groundwater source anywhere on earth.  That's a sad comment on our care of our planet, isn't it?

Sue
 
                              
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How does volcanic eruption, wildfire(naturally caused) and sun cycles factor into that statement? Or what is "normal" levels of CO2 over the earth's lifespan? One could argue that more "natural" composting is going on right now because of 100 years of fire suppression--how does that factor in?



 
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