Big food companies locking carbon into soil

As food corporations come together to find sustainable fixes, we’re bound to experience positive differences.

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Most people don’t think twice before they sit down to eat a steak dinner. However, you may be surprised to know your food choices can harm the planet. These effects all link back to the agriculture industry overall, which makes up 10% of carbon emissions in America.

There’s no denying that the effort to reduce carbon output as a whole will take innovation, reform and time. Fortunately, some companies have already discovered new ways to manage carbon emissions in the agriculture sector. That’s one step forward.

How Agricultural Practices Generate Carbon

If you think about agricultural practices from start to finish, you’ll quickly see what parts contribute to carbon emissions creation. Meat and dairy are especially harmful. Products like beef, cheese and lamb have more significant carbon footprints than fruits and vegetables.

These carbon emissions primarily come from production, as livestock require numerous resources throughout their lives. That said, land use plays a role, too. Every year, American farmers plant crops across hundreds of millions of acres with techniques that damage the environment. There are also carbon-related issues with transportation after farmers sell their products.

Could Soil Sequestering Be the Answer?

How can farmers and others in the food industry limit their carbon footprints? This goal will take a global effort. It likely won’t be fully reversible, either. If you think about how climate change has altered the world over the past few decades, you’ll probably conclude that the damage will be at least somewhat permanent. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t find solutions, though.

Some companies in the agriculture space have found that soil might be the best way to mitigate carbon emissions. This innovation could help farmers meet sustainable agricultural goals, which will be a step toward a future with fewer emissions. Plus, they wouldn’t have to change too much about how they currently operate.

Stonyfield Organic has started to use technology to collect and test soil to see where it could potentially store carbon. It’s a process that involves photosynthesis, as plants ingest carbon from the atmosphere when they grow. During microbial decomposition, soil can serve as storage for carbon when attached to aggregates like fungi. These materials keep the carbon released by the plant’s residue and roots locked into the ground in various pools.

As Stonyfield Organic works to find ways to store carbon in its fields, it plans to require all the farms that produce its products to do the same. These efforts require experimentation — and farmers will have to adopt soil conservation methods to meet their goals. It may not make substantial progress for a few years, but the future looks promising.

Other businesses, including Walmart and General Mills, have made similar plans to reduce carbon emissions through regenerative practices that involve soil sequestering. These corporations recognize that agriculture plays a role in climate change, so they’ve joined the hunt for ways to adjust their soil management practices. That’s significant progress for the food industry. 

Many companies have joined forces with research organizations like OpenTEAM, which specifically focuses on issues around soil management. Together, they can pool their resources to advance soil sequestering as a reliable and convenient carbon storage method. There’s a lot unknown about the possibilities, so collaborations are critical in the meantime.

What Possibilities Does the Future Hold?

As food corporations come together to find sustainable fixes, we’re bound to experience positive differences. It’s not every day that companies realize their role in climate change. While soil sequestering’s potential remains somewhat unknown, businesses and researchers continue to make substantial progress through testing. If more companies join forces with Stonyfield Organic and others, we can be cautiously optimistic about carbon footprint reductions in the agriculture sector.

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