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Carbon Farming

Carbon farming not only helps mitigate climate change, but also creates thriving landscapes that are more resilient to drought and flooding.

What is Carbon Farming?

Carbon farming practices draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the soil, a process called carbon sequestration. These techniques focus on growing healthy plants and building up soil microbes. Plants naturally absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during growth and their roots exude it as carbohydrates that nourish soil microorganisms. When the microorganisms and plants die they break down and build up the carbon stored in the soil.  StopWaste is using compost to fight climate change on our rangeland property in the Altamont Hills in Livermore. Read more about that project, and find resources on carbon farming below. 

Carbon farming practices for gardeners and landscapers: 

  • Feed your soil with compost to encourage microbial activity and plant growth. Compost also improves the water-holding capacity of soil, making it more resilient to drought and flooding.  
  • Maximize continuous living roots by establishing woody perennial plants. If you grow annual vegetables, plant cover crops after you harvest and alongside your crops. Plant roots exude carbohydrates that feed soil microbes.​​
  • ​​Keep unplanted areas covered with a thick layer of mulch such as wood chips, straw, tree leaves, or compost. Mulch helps soil retain moisture, encourages microbial activity, and prevents erosion. Groundcover plants and low cover crops also act as "living mulches" and are an excellent mulching solution.  
  • Minimize disturbance. Erosion, compaction, and rototilling can harm soil microbes and release carbon to the atmosphere. Instead of tilling, try sheet mulching when preparing your garden beds.
  • Avoid synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides which harm the microorganisms that play an important part in storing carbon in the soil. Also, applications of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer can cause nitrous oxide emissions, a greenhouse gas that traps 300 times more heat than carbon dioxide.  
  • Maximize biodiversity. The more diverse the above ground plant community is the more diverse the below ground soil food web will be. A thriving soil food web is excellent habitat for beneficial microbes, and also helps prevent pests and pathogens from harming your plants.