Do regenerative, organic farming practices increase soil carbon?

Second year report on our transitional organic land

A couple years ago we began stewarding 274 acres of land with about 150 tillable acres, which we refer to as Lock Seven Farm, about 10 miles from our main farm. The land had previously been managed using conventional farming methods. We immediately took soil samples to get an initial baseline sampling, and then began implementing regenerative, organic practices. Since the baseline sampling, we have taken two more sets of samples over twenty months, which included two growing seasons.


To transition this farmland to organic, we have utilized the same fundamental tried and true farming practices: 1) cover cropping, 2) crop rotation, 3) and use of composted animal manures and biological inoculants. More specifically, we have transitioned the land towards perennial sod building cover crops like red clover, reduced tillage, and inoculated all the acres with our own on-farm BEAM compost.


We’re now able to see the results and changes in soil quality, soil nutrients and soil biochemistry, and that includes an increase in total organic carbon. Results show an initial 22% increase from the baseline sample, and then an additional 13% increase. That’s a 35% increase in organic carbon in 20 months!

Most scientists have found that when switching from conventional to regenerative practices, the increase in carbon (and soil health in general) can have the most dramatic change within the first years of transition. As we continue to integrate this new farmland into our broader rotation of cover cropping, crop rotation and animal grazing, we will monitor the same set of soil health parameters, including soil carbon.

While the data report showed exponential changes in soil carbon, we don't actually need to maintain such dramatic increases from year to year. We just want to reach an annual carbon growth rate of 0.4% – a number recommended by scientists at the Paris Climate Accord in 2015. Based on our change in organic carbon, analysis shows a statistical certainty for an annual increase of 1.2101%, which is half the “4 per 1000” Paris Accord guideline. How exciting!


We intuitively know that good farming practices build better soil. We can see it. But to read the results on paper and know that this work has the power to mitigate climate change AND feed people, that’s thrilling in it’s own way.


Our year two report was conducted by Will Brinton at Woods End Laboratories.

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