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New to "C" carbon farming

 
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Help, I know nothing about this except what little I have read. I'm not sure if I am carbon farming or not. I am trying to learn about this as I'm also trying to grow Biointensively and heard I need to carbon farm too. I just cleared over an acre of land that had many trees on it and I made many piles of trees and then added soil covering them hoping that they decay and make compost but is this carbon farming??? I also have in the past burned fields that were pasture and weeds and then light disked them in spring, is that carbon farming? As I said I'm new and wanting to learn. I want to learn this so I can be a better farmer and hopefully learn more and grow more to help my local community. Any tips, help, information would be great... THANKS YA"LL
 
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C Rogers,

Hi, welcome to Permies.  I am not an expert on carbon farming, but the basic definition is to practice agriculture in such a way that carbon gets pulled out of the air and sequestered, preferably in the ground.

So let’s start with what you have at present.  As I see things, burning is kinda like anti-carbon farming as C is being taken from a sequestered state (vegetation) and being released into the atmosphere.  True, a small part remains in the form of ash, but much, much more gets released.  Fire has its place in permaculture, but I don’t think this is the best way to sequester C.  Instead, I would focus on growing a cover crop that puts down deep roots.  Deep rooted plants drag carbon underground to their roots.  Each year about 1/3 of their roots die and become part of the soil.  Were it me, I would leave this grass permanently.  Consider using the grass for compost, or alternatively use a flail mower to really chop the grass to bits and decompose in place.

Regarding the area you cleared, what exactly became of the wood?  If it is burried, great!  This would be an excellent opportunity to make some substantial hugel mounds.  At any rate, I personally would work on getting some fast growing plants, either woody perennials or fast growing annuals to be cut down and their mass returned to the soil as quickly as possible.  In any case, I would avoid outright burning.  

However, an alternative option would be to grow vegetation for pyrolysis, making biochar to be spread into the soil.

Regarding your earlier disking, around here, people are likely to advise against disking.  The reason is that disking, especially regular disking will kill a lot of beneficial fungi growing right at the surface of the ground.  These fungi store a surprisingly large amount of carbon as long as they are alive.

C Rogers, please don’t take anything I have said as offensive.  Some of the past tactics are not going to help C farming, but no matter, we are going forward from here.  Ultimately you have the land and the desire and this will work wonders!!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask,

Eric  
 
C Rogers
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Eric Hanson wrote:So let’s start with what you have at present.  As I see things, burning is kinda like anti-carbon farming as C is being taken from a sequestered state (vegetation) and being released into the atmosphere.  True, a small part remains in the form of ash, but much, much more gets released.  Fire has its place in permaculture, but I don’t think this is the best way to sequester C.  Instead, I would focus on growing a cover crop that puts down deep roots.  Deep rooted plants drag carbon underground to their roots.  Each year about 1/3 of their roots die and become part of the soil.  Were it me, I would leave this grass permanently.  Consider using the grass for compost, or alternatively use a flail mower to really chop the grass to bits and decompose in place.

Regarding the area you cleared, what exactly became of the wood?  If it is burried, great!  This would be an excellent opportunity to make some substantial hugel mounds.  At any rate, I personally would work on getting some fast growing plants, either woody perennials or fast growing annuals to be cut down and their mass returned to the soil as quickly as possible.  In any case, I would avoid outright burning.  

However, an alternative option would be to grow vegetation for pyrolysis, making biochar to be spread into the soil.

Regarding your earlier disking, around here, people are likely to advise against disking.  The reason is that disking, especially regular disking will kill a lot of beneficial fungi growing right at the surface of the ground.  These fungi store a surprisingly large amount of carbon as long as they are alive.

C Rogers, please don’t take anything I have said as offensive.  Some of the past tactics are not going to help C farming, but no matter, we are going forward from here.  Ultimately you have the land and the desire and this will work wonders!!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask,

Eric  

Thanks Eric, the trees I cleared from the pastures (now crop land) I piled up and covered with soil to make hugelkultur piles. I'll be planting perennial clover, flowers and veggies on them. Once they break down I planned on using them to then use to supplement my soil in the crop fields. I also DON'T burn fields anymore, that was many years ago but was thinking that was a poor mans version of biochar. But now instead I do cover crops like clover in fall/winter and then cut them down before they flower/seed and get maximum organic material and nitrogen fixation from them doing that in the spring. I use 3 different types of clover as they mature and seed here at different times so I match crops with cover crops. I also am only tilling (disc etc) now till I get my land correct as when I started it was only grass w/ some saplings popping up in old cow fields. I also have a major issue with coffee bean weed (Senna obtusifolia) so atm I have been using a turning plow (flip grass) then adding 6-8 tons of composted breeder chicken manure, lime (according to test results as some fields didn't need lime) and then disking this in. I also had a neighbor chisel plowed my fields and plan on doing this myself but most other tillage I'll reduce or eliminate as my farming practices dictate. I am planing on making permanent 48"x4" tall raised beds.

But I'm still not sure I understand then carbon farming. I heard I must do it to grow biointensively but I think from what you said then most of my pratices I'm planning or am doing is then carbon farming. As some of my cover crops have deep roots and my perennial veggies, flowers and other plants are then called carbon farming. But is hugelkultur also carbon farming? This is why I'm unsure of what to even ask as I don't know, what I don't know LOL so how can I ask about things I don't have a full understanding ( a good quote from Albert Einstein-A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.)
 
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C Rogers wrote: Once they break down I planned on using them to then use to supplement my soil in the crop fields.



Personally I wouldn't do that since disturbing them will release substantial carbon to the air.  Best to leave them alone and plant new trees next to them (not on top).

 
Eric Hanson
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C Rogers,

Ok, I like where this conversation is going!  First off, thanks for not taking my suggestions as personal attack.  That would violate the Permies Prime Directive which is Be Nice.  Unfortunately sometimes people don’t always interpret the exact same written word the exact same way.  But I am glad that you are at least asking what questions you need to ask.

Ok then, on to Bio-intensive vs. carbon farming.  The good news is that these two concepts mutually overlap one another.  Technically, carbon farming is all about getting C out of the atmosphere and into some stable state, most often as a part of the soil, but it could also be in the form of some type of preserved wood or some other substance that locks up the C.

Bio-intensive farming is all about getting our biological ducks in a row and making them all get along while they do their biological role.  For example, cow eats grass, cow poops on grass, microbes in poop enhance soil fertility.  Next year, thanks to the cow, it’s urine, the microbes from its poop all make the ground more fertile for other crops.  My personal mini-example:  I no longer care about making a hot pile of compost.  I make my piles in the garden and whatever compost I get I get.  I am more interested in all the composting goodness, chemistry and microbiology all seeping into my garden soils.  That land is then magically fertile.

Fortunately the two concepts have a very high degree of overlap.  I am more than thrilled that you no longer burn for fertility!  And I basically get the idea now of the trees you cleared.  Good job for hanging onto them and seeing them as resources and not waste to be destroyed.  Moreover, I love that you are using cover crops.

I would say that you are off to a good start.  Get as much biology into the soil as possible.  Consider cutting down your cover crops to make compost heaps just to grow the biology in the field.  Make lots of compost and get it into garden beds.  Personally I am working on making all of my garden beds into raised beds filled with woodchips.  Those chips are being broken down by wine cap mushrooms I introduced.  I grew my first vegetable crop since introducing mushrooms this year.  I was astounded by how well the crops grew without adding any fertilizer whatsoever.  I am coming to realize that the biology is more important than the chemistry.

I hope I have provided you with a glimpse of the possibilities ahead of you.  Keep asking questions.  And if you have any, I hope either I or someone else can help.

Eric
 
C Rogers
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Eric Hanson wrote:Bio-intensive farming is all about getting our biological ducks in a row and making them all get along while they do their biological role.  For example, cow eats grass, cow poops on grass, microbes in poop enhance soil fertility.  Next year, thanks to the cow, it’s urine, the microbes from its poop all make the ground more fertile for other crops.  My personal mini-example:  I no longer care about making a hot pile of compost.  I make my piles in the garden and whatever compost I get I get.  I am more interested in all the composting goodness, chemistry and microbiology all seeping into my garden soils.  That land is then magically fertile. I would say that you are off to a good start.  Get as much biology into the soil as possible.  Consider cutting down your cover crops to make compost heaps just to grow the biology in the field.  Make lots of compost and get it into garden beds.  Personally I am working on making all of my garden beds into raised beds filled with woodchips.  Those chips are being broken down by wine cap mushrooms I introduced.  I grew my first vegetable crop since introducing mushrooms this year.  I was astounded by how well the crops grew without adding any fertilizer whatsoever.  I am coming to realize that the biology is more important than the chemistry.

Eric


I luv the idea of putting compost things in the garden, I may even try this and put some of what I normally add to my compost piles (20 tons of chicken manure) and instead add it between the raised beds (where my tractor tires ride between the rows). I may try this on part of my fields as right now I'm planting ladino clover in this area now as ladino can handle being driven over and recover vs most of my other clovers would die from that. I also go to food-bank places and starbucks and get all the rotten, moldy food (used coffee grinds from them) and add that to compost but I may try your idea and see how that works in the test area and either expand it to all fields or return to just composting with worms.
 
Eric Hanson
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20 tons of chicken manure!!

Wow, you should have plenty of nitrogen for your land.  Given that you have that much chicken manure, I would be tempted to find a way to compost it with some carbonaceous material.  Any chance you can mix some of that manure with the wood in your hugel mounds?

If you want to apply it to the ground, who am I to say this is a bad way to use it?

This puts me in an unusual position.  Normally I am scavenging my ground looking for sources of N.  I planted comfrey mostly so as to have easy access to N and other nutrients.  Growing my mushroom beds has given me a new appreciation for the importance of microbes in the soil.

But wow!  You have it both ways!  You have both the nitrogen and the microbes!  You have a lot of potential there and I bet you can make very good use of it.

Let us know your thoughts on adding some manure to your hugel mounds.

Eric
 
C Rogers
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Eric Hanson wrote:20 tons of chicken manure!!

Wow, you should have plenty of nitrogen for your land.  Given that you have that much chicken manure, I would be tempted to find a way to compost it with some carbonaceous material.  Any chance you can mix some of that manure with the wood in your hugel mounds?

If you want to apply it to the ground, who am I to say this is a bad way to use it?

This puts me in an unusual position.  Normally I am scavenging my ground looking for sources of N.  I planted comfrey mostly so as to have easy access to N and other nutrients.  Growing my mushroom beds has given me a new appreciation for the importance of microbes in the soil.

But wow!  You have it both ways!  You have both the nitrogen and the microbes!  You have a lot of potential there and I bet you can make very good use of it.

Let us know your thoughts on adding some manure to your hugel mounds.

Eric


Thanks, and I did add some manure to the wood, I also am learning and looking at putting some mushrooms to the hugels and to the wood mulch I use on perennial beds. Looking at lions main, shiitake, wine cap and oyster mushrooms. I understand that any of them may be overgrown by native fungi, but it's worth a shot. Also I do add the manure to vermicucompost pile and carbon (Brown) along with (green) things to compost too. Except when neighbor JUST cleans out his houses the manure is usually 6-12 months composted. When I get hot manure is when I add tons of brown materials like leaves, cardboard etc, to make sure pile goes through a heat. I've also been trying to get a good supply of bad straw or hay, but too many use grazon or other herbicides or hay has way too much seed. So instead I hit food pantries and Starbucks for composting materials.
 
C Rogers
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

C Rogers wrote: Once they break down I planned on using them to then use to supplement my soil in the crop fields.



Personally I wouldn't do that since disturbing them will release substantial carbon to the air.  Best to leave them alone and plant new trees next to them (not on top).


I can't leave them as they are next to my neighbors fence. Also the whole reason I made the hugels is because tall trees on southern side blocks the sun and roots go into cropland. I'm trying to keep some but most of my trees will end up being used to build me a house, farm buildings, hugels or used in biochar or heating and cooking.
 
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