Adaptive multi-paddock grazing is a carbon sink, cooling the planet

TODAY, policymakers and farmers will gather at the Dynamic Earth science centre opposite the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to hear ground-breaking soil science from US film maker and researcher, Peter Byck.

Byck will present his new film series Roots so Deep and set out the remarkable opportunity that regeneratively managed grassland soils offer in terms of carbon sequestration.

Roots so Deep, which builds on themes first explored in Carbon Cowboys, is the culmination of a multi-million dollar research project to study and communicate the value of soil carbon sequestration in adaptive multi-paddock systems.

Byck, who has led the project, is a professor of practice at Arizona State University, in both the School of Sustainability and the Cronkite School of Journalism. He said “The soils are an incredible carbon stock and we’ve been treating them so poorly, with ploughing and industrial agriculture; the chemicals we put on the soil.

But, he said in an interview with 8.9 TV News, that “We could get a lot more carbon back into the soil that used to be there. For example, in the States, if you look at the Great Plains, then we used to have 15 foot deep top soils, with 5-10% carbon in there. Right now, we’ve got just inches of top soil, with maybe 1 or 2% carbon, so the opportunity to build those soils back up is massive.”

He said “I can tell you, from being on farms where people are doing AMP grazing, they are building their soils, inches in decades.”

Byck is thrilled at the opportunity to present his work to land use professionals and policymakers in Edinburgh. “To get out now and share the news is for me very exciting. Because I’m a film maker who then helped to organise a science project, the documentary about the project is built in as part of the science project – it isn’t about it – it is it – the film and the science are all part and parcel to the same project. ”

Byck said that “AMP grazing is a huge greenhouse gas sink. That’s what we didn’t know. We spent 10 years, and close to ten million dollars from a lot of donors from corporations to private donors and universities – because we didn’t know that. We knew it looked like a better system, but we didn’t know whether it was a source warming up the planet or a sink cooling it down – and we can say now that it’s a sink, and that’s big news.

“The science is showing that the wildlife is landing on one side of the fence, the side of the fence that’s doing adaptive multi paddock grazing, which emulates the way that large herding animals have roamed grasslands for millennia. Then on the other side we have sort of conventional grazing where we build a big paddock, whether it’s 12 acres or 40 acres and let the animals roam in there for a week, two weeks, three weeks, a whole season – those are the two differences in the grazing systems that we’re using.

“We’re finding that the wildlife, using breeding birds as an indicator species, are three times as likely to be on the AMP side of the fence.

“We’re seeing water infiltration, three times as much water going into the soil on the AMP side.

“We’re seeing that grazing writ large is a greenhouse gas sink, out in the pasture – but the AMP side is massive, and the conventional side is modest.”

Byck concluded “What that says is that cattle on grasslands can actually bring down greenhouse gases, when we’re looking at methane, nitrous oxide and CO2. When you factor all those in together – and you look at the total net of greenhouse gas warming – of warming the world, or cooling the world – grazing itself can be a sink, cooling the world; and AMP grazing is a massive sink.”

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