Locking carbon in the soil is one of the most important things we can do as farmers and growers. Perhaps that's not a very poetic way of talking simply about good farming practice, adhered to by all who produce food up until, here in the West at least, perhaps the 1950's onwards.
What we take from the soil we must return if we're to have any form of sustainable system, but organic matter levels in our soils have been declining now for decades. As we lose organic matter so we reduce the fertility and structure of our soils and release vast amounts of carbon dioxide in to the atmosphere.
But the reverse is also true when we build organic matter, by adding manures and composts, growing green manures, having permanent pasture and growing perennial tree crops. Minimise tillage, get stocking rates correct, ensure soils aren't compacted, these practices all help to improve our soils, which is better for the present, the future and for climate change.
Today at the Sustainable Food Trust's True Cost Accounting in Food and Farming conference, Professor Whendee Silver gave a presentation on soil carbon, arguing "We need to lock more carbon into our soil alongside reducing atmospheric C02 emissions".
Just this week a paper co-authored by James Hansen argued "The paper calls for new forestry and agriculture policies that would lead to the sequestration of 100 billions tons of carbon into the biosphere and the soil." Reducing emissions are one important element, they argued, but sequestration is also going to be critical.
It's therefore encouraging that there is a new project called Carbon Prophet. It aims " to measure and map the carbon content of soils in the UK and, by doing so, to develop a carbon trading scheme that can unlock the value of this important asset, providing all farmers and land owners with a significant new income stream".
They're looking for farmers to take part by offering their farms as part of the study. Click here for more information and to join the trials.