- Hardcover: 512 pages
- Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (February 22, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1603585710
- ISBN-13: 978-1603585712
- Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 1.2 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 17 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Carbon Farming Solution: A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security
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Journal of Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems-
"Readers interested in carbon capture and climate mitigation will welcome this new resource, one of the most complete books on the market today that deals with what could be called 'carbon farming.' Although the focus is on perennial crops and systems often grouped under the topics of agroforestry, or more recently permaculture, the book also delves into creative and biodiverse annual cropping and livestock systems, new crops, and innovative designs all focused on the issue of carbon. Toensmeier is an applied ecologist with extensive experience in the Latin American tropics, and practices these principles in workshops, books, and at home. More than a reference volume, The Carbon Farming Solution is an easily read and interesting overview of this important frontier. … The appendixes to the book provide a wealth of data on species and relevant references that could keep anyone truly interested engaged for months in following up on sources and designing new systems based on these ideas. The Carbon Farming Solution is indeed a monumental project that will help guide tropical agricultural development for decades, and Toensmeier has provided a significant resource for those concerned about climate and the future.”
"The terrestrial carbon pool is one of the most dynamic because it is directly affected by how people manage soils and implement cropping systems. The renewed interest in sequestering carbon into the soil reservoir creates a series of questions on how to introduce practices that are effective in increasing soil carbon along with providing plant resources to sustain the goods and services needed for a healthy ecosystem. In this volume, Toensmeier (Yale Univ.), co-author with David Jacke of Edible Forest Gardens, (v. 1) (CH, Jan'06, 43-2794), explores the carbon sequestration potential of different agroecological systems. He directly compares these systems, revealing the limitations of each and placing their dynamics in perspective. These include annual versus perennial systems and grasses and crops versus trees. As the subtitle indicates, the book uses a toolkit approach to help readers understand the value of selecting different practices and species appropriate to a given ecosystem. Included in the analysis of mitigation strategies are livestock systems and ways these can be managed in concert with plant systems to create viable agroecosystems to reduce the carbon footprint in agriculture. Summing Up: Recommended. All library collections.”
"To minimize climate change, environmental engineers have recently proposed several innovative, if controversial, schemes designed to soak up CO2 or even block sunlight altogether, including spraying aerosols in the upper atmosphere. Yet, according to permaculture expert Toensmeier, a more reliable and safer solution involves trading in conventional agriculture practices for a soil-management methodology known as carbon farming. In this weighty but well-organized handbook, Toensmeier offers a wealth of guidance on cutting-edge farming techniques that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and capture carbon in vegetation and soils. As a successful model of what’s possible, Toensmeier cites Las Canadas, in Veracruz, Mexico, where food-cooperative owner Ricardo Romero restored 250 acres of degraded farmland within 10 years. In 5 lucidly written sections, Toensmeier covers the science of carbon sequestration, perennial crop cultivation, and key financing tips. On the coattails of the recent, successful Paris Climate Summit, Toensmeier provides invaluable information and inspiration to farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs as well as everyone interested in environmentally positive farming as part of the effort to protect food sources and mitigate global warming.”
"Toensmeier (Perennial Vegetables) contends that shifting agricultural practices can help mitigate climate change and advocates for carbon farming, i.e., using a suite of perennial crops and practices that simultaneously seclude carbon in the soil while maintaining the amounts of crops needed globally for food, materials, and energy. The author delineates the different types of systems that are best at sequestering carbon and also provides strategies for livestock management, supplying general information on practices such as rainwater harvesting and terrace farming that will help guarantee the successful implementation of this type of farming. A large section is devoted to perennial crops that Toensmeier maintains would be strong candidates for carbon farming. VERDICT: Both small- and large-scale farmers will find ways to apply methods that segregate carbon and therefore lessen the deleterious effects of climate change in this comprehensive title.”
“Agriculture is currently a major net producer of greenhouse gases, with little prospect of improvement unless things change markedly. In The Carbon Farming Solution, Eric Toensmeier puts carbon sequestration at the forefront and shows how agriculture can be a net absorber of carbon. Improved forms of annual-based agriculture can help to a degree; however to maximize carbon sequestration, it is perennial crops we must look at, whether it be perennial grains, other perennial staples, or agroforestry systems incorporating trees and other crops. In this impressive book, backed up with numerous tables and references, the author has assembled a toolkit that will be of great use to anybody involved in agriculture whether in the tropics or colder northern regions. For me the highlights are the chapters covering perennial crop species organized by use―staple crops, protein crops, oil crops, industrial crops, etc.―with some seven hundred species described. There are crops here for all climate types, with good information on cultivation and yields, so that wherever you are, you will be able to find suitable recommended perennial crops. This is an excellent book that gives great hope without being naïve and makes a clear reasoned argument for a more perennial-based agriculture to both feed people and take carbon out of the air.”--Martin Crawford, director, The Agroforestry Research Trust; author of Creating a Forest Garden and Trees for Gardens, Orchards, and Permaculture
“Scientific observations and models are building an increasingly dire picture of the obstacles that must be crossed on the road to achieving climate and ecological health and stability on a planet filled with humans. The relentlessly hopeful (but not naively optimistic) author of The Carbon Farming Solution reminds us that our planet is still rich in biological resources and that humanity is capable of astonishing feats of creativity and collaborative action; the picture painted here in word and image depicts both the barriers and paths through them. Eric Toensmeier draws upon both the scientific literature and the world’s ethnobotanical knowledge bank to construct a logical and compelling road map for future research and investment to reinvent agriculture. But reason and facts alone are insufficient to sustain a global and long-term agenda; passion is required. In the end, it is the perennial plants (and their human and microbial partners) themselves―lovingly portrayed here in their glorious diversity and elegant functionality―that steal the show and our hearts. This ‘Who’s Who’ of wild or orphaned potential crops can inspire a new generation of plant lovers and gardeners to become the convention-questioning, dedicated, passionate, hopeful scientists, farmers, and leaders that the movement requires.”--David Van Tassel, PhD, senior scientist, The Land Institute
“These are exciting times for soil carbon! What was once an obscure topic mainly of interest to agronomists and gardeners is now viewed by many people as a key to solving multiple challenges in the 21st century, including climate change, hunger, and drought. For urgent times, we need an urgent agriculture. That’s exactly what we get in Eric Toensmeier’s new book―a detailed, practical explanation of how to increase carbon in our soils, written with passion and skill by a leader in regenerative agriculture. We know what to do, and with The Carbon Farming Solution we know how to do it. Let’s get going!"--Courtney White, author of Grass, Soil, Hope and Two Percent Solutions for the Planet
“Eric Toensmeier has done it again! The Carbon Farming Solution is a detailed vision that will become the go-to reference guide for everyone who is interested in an accessible toolkit showcasing global agroecological carbon farming in action. This indispensable book needs to be put in the hands of all climate-change policy makers, agrarians, and people who eat food, drink water, and breathe air. Mr. Toensmeier’s book is not ground-breaking―it is ground-healing!”--Brock Dolman, director, Permaculture Program and WATER Institute at Occidental Arts and Ecology Center
“The Carbon Farming Solution is a book we will look back upon decades from now and wonder why something so critically relevant could have been so overlooked until that time. We are told we have a choice between chemical/GMO agriculture if we want to feed the world, or we can see children starve and adopt organic agriculture as a romantic and sentimental pursuit. Really? Toensmeier describes a future that is in alignment with how life works, a scientific and sophisticated agricultural understanding of husbandry and biology that surpasses the productivity of industrial agriculture. What is phenomenal about these land-use solutions is that they are the only way we can bring carbon back home if we are to reverse climate change. The title is accurate but humble: The Carbon Farming Solution describes the foundation of the future of civilization.”--Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest
“Eric Toensmeier presents a convincing argument that carbon farming is crucial to addressing global issues of the 21st century including climate change, food and nutritional insecurity, eutrophication and contamination of water, and dwindling of soil biodiversity. Implemented in a transparent manner and with payments of just and fair price based on the true societal value, carbon farming is also pertinent to alleviating poverty and addressing several Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Carbon farming as a strategy is in accord with the “4 pour 1000” initiative of the French Government presented during the COP-21 Summit in Paris on December 1, 2015 and The Carbon Farming Solution is a befitting tribute to the 2015 International Year of Soils.”--Dr. Rattan Lal, Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science and director of The Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, The Ohio State University; President Elect, International Union of Soil Sciences
About the Author
Eric Toensmeier is the award-winning author of Paradise Lot and Perennial Vegetables, and the co-author of Edible Forest Gardens. Eric is an appointed lecturer at Yale University, a Senior Fellow with Project Drawdown, and an international trainer. He presents in English and Spanish throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, and the Caribbean. Eric has studied useful perennial plants and their roles in agroforestry systems for over two decades, and cultivates about 300 species in his urban garden. His writing can be viewed online at perennialsolutions.org.
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Eric Toensmeier's new book, The Carbon Farming Solution, is subtitled A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security. That's quite an ambitious aim, but this book really does measure up. There are nearly 500 pages of comprehensive, meticulously researched information with full color photos, charts, tables and references, all perfectly organized, well laid out, clearly written, and presented in a way that is both completely accessible to the layman and also appropriate to use as a text book for courses or college studies.
In the introduction, Eric tells us that "Carbon farming alone is not enough to avoid catastrophic climate change, even if it were practiced on every square meter of farmland. But it does belong at the center of our transformation as a civilization. Along with new economic priorities, a massive switch to clean energy, and big changes to much of the rest of the way our societies work, carbon farming offers a pathway out of destruction and a route to hope. Along the way it can help address food insecurity, injustice, environmental degradation, and some of the core problems with the global food system. In the pages to come we'll explore the promise and pitfalls of this timely climate change solution."
The book itself is divided into five main parts, each containing several chapters.
Part 1: The Big Idea introduces the concepts and science behind how increased carbon in the atmosphere is effecting climate, and the need to put it back in the soil where it belongs. The chapter on carbon sequestration gives us some idea of how different agricultural practices differ widely in their potential to do this, and that while our understanding of the fine details is still lacking, there is sufficient data already available to guide us to choose the best core practices. Then the idea of agroforestry is introduced, where trees may be integrated with annual crops, livestock systems or complete forest gardens. The benefits of perennial crops, which live for several years and are non destructively harvested, are explained. The final chapter in this section discusses the concept that we permaculturists know as function stacking, where each element in a system performs many functions. Eric acknowledges the value of permaculture, but is also not afraid to point out where he feels we might be starting to go astray. The main concept he's trying to impress on us is that when we design systems to sequester carbon, then we should design them to also perform other functions such as producing food or stabilizing slopes. He discusses compatible functions such as ecosystem services, soil improvement, and socioeconomic benefits.
Much of the rest of the book is concerned with choosing the most appropriate growing systems for your situation, and the best perennial plants to use in those systems.
Part 2: A Global Toolkit of Practices and Species is to me the most interesting section, discussing different types of system and the pros and cons of each one.
The three main types of systems discussed are annual cropping systems, livestock systems and perennial cropping systems.
Although annual cropping offers the least potential to sequester carbon, it currently accounts for 89 percent of all cropland, so finding ways to transition this from being a net emitter to a net sequesterer of carbon while allowing us to grow the annual crops with which we are all so familiar would make a tremendous difference overall. Various annual systems are discussed, including conservation agriculture, strip intercropping, alley cropping, swidden and successional intercropping, among others. Each is presented separately, described accurately, placed into context, and the pros, cons and relative potential for carbon sequestration discussed, allowing the reader to make comparisons and select the ones most appropriate to their own situation.
The chapters on livestock systems and perennial cropping systems are laid out in much the same way.
Livestock systems are controversial and Eric takes care to present as much information as possible to help us understand the controversy. 70 percent of farmland is devoted to pasture, and a third of cropland is used to grow food for livestock, so, again, any improvements in the way we raise and feed livestock can have a huge overall impact on carbon sequestration. Whatever our personal views on the matter, it is important that better systems are implemented globally. Some of the livestock systems discussed include livestock integration, silvopasture, fodder banks, outdoor living barns and green corrals, and restoration agriculture.
Perennial cropping systems offer no controversy, but they do require more change to both our diets and food systems. Systems discussed include multistrata agroforests, which Eric believes should be a priority, perennial monocultures, managed bamboo, coppice, herbaceous biomass crops, woody agriculture and perennial grains.
A short chapter on additional tools, not directly related to growing crops, looks at rainwater harvesting, terraces, keyline, biochar, productive restoration and, my own favorite, indigenous land magagement. And finally this section is rounded off by a look at plant species, breeding, perennializing, GMOs, and invasives. He also reminds us that there whilst thre are no intrinsically "bad plants", neither are there any "superplants" waiting to save us, nor any excuse to clear healthy forest to plant any of them.
Part 3: Perennial Staple Crops and Part 4: Perennial Industrial Crops
These two sections speak for themselves really. Each has an introductory chapter outlining the potential and any problems of such crops, followed by chapters on more specific crop types.
According to Eric, "Perennial staple crops are trees and other long-lived perennial plants that provide these basic proteins carbohydrates, and fats. They include cereal grains, pulses (dry beans), nuts, dry pods, starchy fruits, oil-seeds, leaf protein concentrate starch-filled trunks, sugary saps, and aerial tubers." Examples of each are discussed in the following chapters, some species being described in detail while comprehensive tables provide basic details on virtually all known examples of appropriate plants to use. I'll leave you all to discover your own favorites, but if anyone knows where I can get hold of some bunya nut, I'd like to hear from them!
The section on perennial industrial crops was the most eye-opening for me. Here are a few quotes which hit home pretty hard.
"an eighth of petroleum is used to synthesize materials and chemicals. A full 10 percent of petroleum is used as feedstock to synthesize chemicals, with another 10 percent used to power the process."
"there simply isn't enough land to grow both food and fuel"
"One barrel of oil yields as much energy as twenty-five thousand hours of human manual labor - more than a decade of human labor per barrel."
"My proposal is that we reduce our consumption, acquire most of our energy from wind, water, and solar (WWS), and produce materials and chemicals from non-destructively harvested perennials."
"A large-scale wind water and solar energy system can reliably supply the world's needs, significantly benefiting climate, air quality, ecology and energy security ... the obstacles are primarily politcal, not technical."
"I don't have the road map laid out from here to a full proposal to replace petroleum and all its uses, but I think these species and pactices are the building blocks of a post-petroleum civilization."
The chapters that follow cover biomass, industrial starch, industrial oil, hydrocarbon and fiber crops, followed by a chapter on other industrial uses such as dyes, cork, tannis, waxes, gums, pesticides, medicinal plants and soaps, again with detailed descriptions of some plants and comprehensive tables outlining any others of interest.
Finally, Eric rounds off the book with Part 5: Road Map to Implementation in which he presents chapters about a three-point plan to scale up carbon farming, how to support farmers and farming organizations to mate the transition, how to effectively finance carbon farming, the importance of removing national and international policy barriers, and strategic next steps, including the need to provide examples of carbon farming in action in our own neighborhoods so that people can learn what carbon farming is and understand its potential.
Which is, of course, where every single one of us reading these words has a role to play.
Three substantial appendices provide a global species matrix, clean dry weight yield calculations and carbon sequestration rates.
To say I am impressed by this book would be an understatement. In my opinion, this is a book that belongs in every library, every school, every college, and in the hands of everyone with access to land or the desire to heal the Earth.
Let's try to make that happen.
In short, for the first time ever -
I give this book 10 out of 10 acorns
Eric Toensmeier, I salute you!
Toensmeier has done a masterful job of this.
Even if you thought you knew a lot about carbon farming and all the possible plants and animals to use, I believe you will find even more possibilities.
The detailed descriptions of the various plants and their potential is worth the price of the book.
The book details a large group of strategies for making the future a safer and better place.
This book is well worth the investment, Thank you Eric
Regenerative agriculture can reverse climate change within our lifetime. That's the inspiring, well-documented message of longtime farmer and author Eric Toensmeier in his new book The Carbon Farming Solution. Deftly integrating explanations of science, local knowledge and public policy opportunities, Toensmeier shows how regenerative agriculture can and must be central to collective global action to address climate change.
Toensmeier presents solid, scientific evidence of the great potential for highly diverse agriculture to both mitigate and reverse the current trajectory of climate change. The data show that if implemented on a larger scale than currently practiced, regenerative agriculture — from tropical home gardens to temperate permaculture — could draw down more than 100 billion tons of carbon into the soil. That's equal to 367 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) which would indeed bring us back from our current climate change tipping point. Climate scientists report that to reverse the disastrous course we're now on, we need to draw down an estimated 200 billion metric tons of CO2.
Not only can carbon farming sequester great quantities of carbon currently in the atmosphere, it also offers resilience in the face of drought and flooding — and it's multifunctional. Bringing carbon into soil builds soil organic matter, which improves the soil’s ability to capture water. This can help prevent runoff during floods and increase water retention during times of drought. Soil organic matter content ranges from one percent in poor, arid soils, to about eight percent in the richest prairie soils — with most agricultural soils in the low end of the range. For every 21 tons of carbon sequestered per hectare (2.5 acres), soil organic matter goes up about one percent, which in turn increases the soil’s ability to hold water by 25,000 gallons.
Even small increases in carbon content can have tremendous positive impacts when adopted over large areas. For example, about 70 percent of the world’s 2.5 billion acres of farmland are pastures. While “improved pasture” practices sequester only low to medium amounts of carbon, they are relatively easy to adopt. Minor increases in soil carbon on 70 percent of the Earth’s farmland can make a huge difference in reversing climate change. More intensive silvopastoral systems (planned incorporation of trees into pasture systems) can sequester much more, while also providing such benefits as fuel or fodder for animals.
In contrast to well-managed pastureland, most annual cropping systems are greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters. Annual crops constitute about 89 percent of non-pasture farmland, and just four crops occupy the vast majority: wheat, corn, rice and soybeans. Though conservation practices already exist on 10 percent of cropland, they generally have very low carbon sequestration rates, with the possible exception of regenerative organic farming.
Perennial grain systems and agroforestry are at the heart of carbon farming. There are about 20,000 edible perennial crops, 6,000 of which are currently cultivated for food, fodder, materials, chemical and energy. Only about 100 of these are fully domesticated for food, along with about 30 industrial crops. Many perennial staple crops — cereals, pulses (including beans), oilseeds, tubers — are economically competitive with annual staples, especially in humid and tropical climates. In colder, drier climates, the yields of most perennial staples still fall below those of annual crops, although current efforts to improve perennial grains show promise.
Agroforestry systems offer the most robust version of carbon farming, sequestering by far the greatest amount of carbon at 10-40 times the best annual cropping or managed grazing systems. Agroforestry is described in some detail in The Carbon Farming Solution, not as a random incorporation of trees on farms, but rather as “intentional, intensive, integrated and interactive” system of farming. In addition to carbon sequestration, agroforestry systems can reduce need for fuel, fertilizers and pesticides. Agroforestry is currently practiced on about 250 million acres globally.
.. and there's a lot more ... including a discussion of the transformative policies necessary to support widespread implementation of carbon farming practices. These policies must be rooted in community development, community self-reliance and food sovereignty as modeled by the likes of Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) and the International Peasant Movement (La Via Campesina).
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