Solving Climate Change with Holistic Management

Briefing Notes for a Solution to Climate Change 

By Blain Hjertaas

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Fact 1

Carbon is becoming recognized as one of the most significant factors facing mankind. The Keeling observatory in Hawaii began measuring C02 in 1958. At that time the C02 level was 312 PPM. Today we have passed 400 PPM. Significant effort has been expended in talking about limiting future C02 emissions, but to this date no one has talked about reversing the process. The world will continue to warm unless the process is reversed.
Fact 2

Carbon is held in vegetation, soil, oceans and the atmosphere. We know the atmosphere can hold more but we are learning the consequences of this. The oceans hold the most but they are becoming more acidic as their load increases, causing alarm for coral ecosystems. The safe place to store carbon is to increase the organic content of the soil. Agricultural soils on the eastern prairies averaged 12% organic matter at settlement. Today these same soils are between 4-6%.

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Fact 3

There is an increasing awareness in the world that something needs to be done about this issue. To date, there has been much discussion about how to limit the problem but nothing on how to solve it. This proposal is a solution.
Fact 4

The Soil Carbon Coalition has been measuring carbon change over time across North America. There are close to 300 sites being monitored with 30 in Western Canada. Some of the early indications are that increasing carbon content in soil is more rapid than originally thought. The first tests were done in 2011 and retested in 2014. All farms are located in South East Saskatchewan. The results ranged from a high of 48.85 tonnes per hectare per year of C02 sequestered to a low of 1.17 tonnes of C02 per hectare per year. This are a very small data set; however these types of findings are being observed world wide as regenerative farmers begin to learn about the benefits of farming in such a way as to return carbon to the soil.

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Fact 5

Cattle do contribute to greenhouse gases. Two recent studies: Basarab in April of 2012 and Beauchemin in April of 2010 concluded that each kilogram of carcass produced emits 19.5 to 22 kg of C02-equivalent Greenhouse Gasses (Methane emissions included in that figure). Proper grazing management, however, stimulates growth and carbon sequestration, offsetting the emmisions. These three farms illustrate this point:

  • Hjertaas’ near Redvers, Sask. produced 105 kg/ha of live animal. This amount of production emitted 1350 kg of C02 per hectare. Their land sequestered 22,800 kg/ha C02 per year. For every kilogram emitted 17 kilograms of C02 were sequestered.
  • McNeil’s at Alameda, Sask. produced 134 kg/ha of live animal. Those animals emitted 1680 kg/ha of C02. Their healthy rangeland sequestered 42,400 kg/ha of C02 per year. For every kilogram emitted 25 kilograms were sequestered.
  • Corcoran’s at Langbank, Sask.produced 96kg/ha of live animal. That production level emitted 1231kg/ha of C02. Their land sequestered 48,500 kg/ha of C02 per year. For every kilogram emitted 39 kilograms were sequestered

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Fact 6

Regenerative farming: poly crops, grazing/cropping strategies and monoculture as part of a plan to keep land covered and active biology in the soil will also contribute to soil sequestration.
Fact 7

Carbon is highly beneficial to farmers and society. As the carbon content (organic matter) increases in the soil the following happens:

  • The water holding capacity of the soil increase mitigating flood and drought
  • Production goes up resulting in more profit
  • As biological activity increases in soils so does the nutrient uptake of plants creating nutrient dense foods
  • Nutrient dense foods, healthier people, lower medical costs.
  • Increase in pollinators
  • More grass birds and other endangered wildlife

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Fact 8

Nutrient dense foods are critical for human health. As a society we are less than healthy. If we look at the health of our agricultural soils we could conclude they are less than healthy. Food is medicine is what many leading nutritionists are beginning to recognize. The only way to get healthy nutrient dense food to is to have biologically active soil with increasing carbon content. A change in our food production system will create huge savings in our health care system.
Fact 9

The purpose of taxation is to change behavior. A carbon tax is designed to make us think about using fossil fuels that contribute to the carbon load. This money needs to flow through government to those regenerative farmers, who are willing to change their production practices to begin to sequester carbon in the soil. This is the key to the solution. Reward those innovators who can sequester carbon. When this is done CO2 will no longer be an issue.
Fact 10

Each Canadian has a carbon footprint of 18.9 tonnes C02 per person. At a sequestration level of 27.8 tonnes per hectare C02, (average of first farms tested) each hectare farmed regeneratively will more than sequester each Canadians’ footprint. At a sequestration level of 40 tonnes per hectareC02, it takes .5 hectare to negate one Canadians footprint. Canada has 65 million hectares of farmland.
The solution to reversing atmospheric carbon is to provide financial incentives to producers to return it to the soil.
For further information, contact:

Ralph Corcoran –   306 532 4778

Blain Hjertaas –   306 452 3882

Tony McQuail –   519 528 2493

Don Campbell –   306 236 6088

Brian Luce –   403 783 6518

Kelly Sidoryk –   780 872 2585

6 Responses to “Solving Climate Change with Holistic Management

  • Way to go SK!
    We also are having great success building our entisols and aridisols into inceptisols, and deepening them into 20 inch deep mollisols which allow for resilient agriculture models for the future. We started with .5% organic matter, now over 4% in just a few years! The scientists saying it takes millions of years to make topsoil is just plain false.

  • Thanks for all the work you are doing on this and for sharing your information in such a clear and accessible way!

    The only thing that bothers me is that you mention monocropping as a carbon sequestration strategy…the problem I see there is that we also need to support biodiversity and monocropping has very low biodiversity. Agroecological or regenerative approaches farming and ranching need to support biodiversity, water conservation, soil fertility building, carbon sequestration and so much more in a complex system.

    Thanks again for your work!

  • Efrain Sánchez Azcarate
    1 year ago

    Muy interesante los resultados de los trabajos que se están haciendo para revertir el cambio climático. Creo que estamos equivocados con el concepto de adaptación al cambio climático que solo disminuye la velocidad con la que estamos degradando el planeta. En cambio estoy seguro que podemos revertir el daño causado, con estrategias como las que proponen y se están llevando a cabo en muchas partes del planeta. Gracias por compartir.

  • Just curious how many kgs of carbon the soil sequesters with no grazing, or no activity–just as a number to compare the net figures shared above? Thanks.

    • Hi Melissa,

      I’ll ask Blain if he has any numbers like that. I know that there are many studies measuring such things though, and I’d bet you could find one in the same or similar climate zone as these numbers came from. Rest assured it is FAR lower than these numbers. On croplands and in drylands with no grazing the soil generally loses carbon or barely keeps its carbon…

  • This are a very small data set; however these types of findings are being observed world wide as regenerative farmers begin to learn about the benefits of farming in such a way as to return carbon to the soil.

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