The 2015 Paris Climate Summit attempted to define specific actions related to the sequestration of atmospheric carbon, which continues to reach ever greater concentrations (currently over 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide). To curb climate change, 350 parts per million or less is regarded as the crucial threshold. Among a wide array of climate change mitigation strategies that are being proposed, the recognition of agriculture as both a carbon source and a means of carbon capture is essential. 

During the Paris talks, world leaders identified carbon capture in the soil as a significant strategy for responding to the climate crisis. This is where carbon farming, a combination of “crops and practices that sequester carbon while simultaneously meeting human needs,” can play a vital role helping to prevent catastrophic climate change by “removing carbon from the atmosphere and safely storing it in soils and perennial vegetation.”

Eric Toensmeier, the author of Paradise Lot and Perennial Vegetables, and co-author of Edible Forest Gardens, is no stranger to the ECHO network. He has spoken often at ECHO conferences and workshops. His latest book is The Carbon Farming Solution (Chelsea Green Publishing): A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security. 

This 480-page work is highly readable and offers comprehensive descriptions of carbon farming approaches that include annual cropping systems that are well known to the ECHO network, such as Conservation Agriculture and the System of Rice Intensification. It also addresses the appropriate role of livestock systems such as managed grazing and improved pasture management.
Most of the book is devoted to perennial crops and cropping systems. Eric offers considerable information related to the role of perennial staple crops (e.g., root crops, bananas, pulses, plantains, nuts) as well as the potential of perennial grain crops. Another sizable section details perennial industrial crops grown for energy, biomass, fiber, industrial starch and hydrocarbons. 
In addition to suggesting crops and systems, Eric offers a three-point plan for scaling up carbon farming by empowering farmers to make the transition to such agriculture, supplying effective financing and reforming international agriculture and trade policies. 
The title of The Carbon Farming Solution may not be attractive to those still struggling with the concept of human-induced climate change. Even so, the book is an encyclopedia of perennial crops and farming systems with global relevance. One valuable tool is the 34-page Global Species Matrix (Appendix A) that lists 698 crop species. This table efficiently summarizes essential information related to the classification, origin, invasiveness, climate/humidity requirements, cropping categories and agroforestry potential for each entry. 

The book is not cheap, but The Carbon Farming Solution would be an excellent resource for agricultural scientists and other professionals, and for institutional libraries. It may be purchased through on-line retailers, such as Chelsea Green Publishing, and is sold at the ECHO bookstore.

Publication Details

  • Published: 2016
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1603585712
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603585712
  • Dewey Decimal: 338.162
  • ECHO Library: 338.162 TOE