This International Year of Soil resulted in some serious action that has brought the soils beneath our feet into the limelight.


With recent agreements in Paris, participating countries have decided to work together to sequester carbon globally in soils. Our soils currently hold two to three times more carbon than our air. Frequently carbon is released from the soil into the air through agricultural practices that degrade the soil at the same time as they contribute to climate change. By altering these practices we can both mitigate climate change and increase agricultural productivity while protecting our valuable soil resources. Reducing extractive methods of agriculture by increasing agroforestry and reducing tillage, we can keep carbon sequestered in the soil, boost yields, and offset greenhouse gas emissions.


There are two ways we can capture and keep carbon sequestered in the soil and out of the atmosphere. One is by adding organic matter to the soil and the other is by planting long-lived perennial plants, like trees. Carbon rich soils high in organic matter are more productive and have higher water holding capacity than soils where the organic matter has decomposed. And through the process of photosynthesis, plants draw carbon from the atmosphere and deposit it in the soil – long living perennials do this very well.


The significant agreement that was signed this fall was part of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda where global partners joined together to launch the  ‘4/1000’, initiative.


The info-graphic posted above from the UN illustrates the concept and the goal.


Launched by France, the 4 percent Initiative, has a goal of bringing together all willing contributors in the public and private sectors “to demonstrate that agriculture, and agricultural soils in particular, can play a crucial role where food security and climate change are concerned .”  If applied to the surface horizon of soils worldwide, the target of 4 per 1000 would result in 3.4 billion (with a B) tons of carbon being sequestered per year.



The essential methods for 4/1000:

Avoid leaving the soil bare in order to limit carbon losses

Restore degraded crops, grasslands and forests

Plant trees and legumes which fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil

Feed the soil with manure and composts

Conserve and collect water at the feet of plants to favour plant growth