The Soil Carbon Sink at Columbia Ag Park

David Yarrow

final printed paper & proposal: 

Soil Carbon Sink

at Columbia Agriculture Park

In 2021, a Citizen Science project will create Soil Carbon Sinks at Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture (CCUA).  A citizen science team will design and install prototype plots to demonstrate three ways to boost Soil Carbon.

In 2015, at COP 21, France set an international goal to increase soil carbon by .4% per year.  We can do better.

Plot #1 Accelerated                +3% per year for 3 years = 9%

A small plot will be quickly loaded with a full menu of carbon-smart materials to reach optimum in 3 years. Installation begins in March by careful structured addition of assorted biocarbons, minerals & microbes.  A heavy fall treatment will digest over winter to grow strong, stable Soil Food Webs by spring.  Second & third year are lighter treatments with less soil disturbance.

Plot #2 Agriculture                  +1% per year for 9 years = 9%

CCUA Urban Farm integrates carbon-smart materials & methods into normal farm operation with smaller doses & slow annual changes.  Many carbon-smart substances are added in spring or fall soil prep.  Seed mix, transplant media, soil drench, foliar spray are strategies to boost carbon & growth while soil strengthens and matures.

Plot #3 Agroforestry          +.5% per year for 10 years = 5%

CCUA Food Forest will demonstrate no-till techniques to re-carbonize soils under perennial crops, trees & shrubs.  Installation begins in spring as layered surface mulch to boost roots, fungi and earthworms.  Special substances, plants & techniques can penetrate dense, compact clay to build deep soil carbon & microbe ecosystems.

Soil Carbon Sinks aren’t created in one operation, or a year.  Like a tree, soil is a complex community of living cells that take time to fully develop and mature.  Seasonal treatments are added in spring and fall over several years.  The goal isn’t to dump carbon, but to build fully fertile soil as habitat to regenerate soil biology.

Citizen Science is ordinary people doing extraordinary research, often difficult, complex, cutting-edge, in-the-field studies.  Soil carbon sequestration—an emerging technology, unknown to most, misunderstood by many—is a new stew of widely varied strategies & substances, most with a short history & few studies. 

This Citizen Science investigation of sequestration will install a variety of Soil Carbon Sinks, and gather data to document the effects of various carbon-smart materials & methods.  Annual soil tests will measure & monitor carbon and other soil health indicators.  Yields, outcomes & observations will document each process.  Uniform parameters & protocols to measure & monitor soil carbons are essential to integrate standardized data into regional and national certified Soil Carbon Databases.

A Soil Carbon Team of staff, volunteers & consultants meets at noon, third Saturday each month, after Farmers Market, to discuss progress, organize installations, conduct work projects, plan & host public events.

Summer Event: feature Kiss the Ground documentary, followed by Community Discussion on food resilience and the Soil Carbon Sink as climate strategy.  A guided tour of CCUA prototype plots, and a talk to teach strategy, spread awareness, raise money, gather support, recruit members.

Fall Event: Carbon-Smart Field Day will focus on our climate challenge, to inspire responsible human action, and Soil Carbon Sink strategy.  Keynote speaker on soil health, food quality and climate action. Network session for community, environment, farm, food and nutrition health groups.

for a green & peaceful planet,
david yarrow

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