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Soil Can Save Us: Conference Teaches Farmers To Battle Global Warming

Conference attendees will learn about saving the planet through soil this weekend in Billings. Credit: belfasteileen/iStock
Conference attendees will learn about saving the planet through soil this weekend in Billings. Credit: belfasteileen/iStock
November 12, 2015

BILLINGS, Mont. - Dirt can save the planet and farmers can put the brakes on global warming. Those are the surprising conclusions of the keynote speaker at a conference on soil's role in saving our world this weekend in Billings.

The Northern Plains Resource Council's 44th Annual Meeting on Saturday is open to the public and attendees will hear from author Kirsten Ohlson, who explains how poor farming practices have stripped much of the land of important soil microorganisms that trap excess carbon in the ground.

"We have to think actively about removing carbon from the atmosphere," says Ohlson who wrote 'The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet.' "But plants have been removing carbon for a half a billion years. Plants take it out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis and they feed it to soil microorganisms."

Ohlson says progressive farmers don't plow anymore because it disturbs the soil too much. They use machines that poke a hole in the ground, drop the seed and cover it up without tilling the whole field.

Ohlson notes that there are 6 billion microorganisms in a single teaspoon of soil. So, eco-conscious farmers allow companion plants to grow in between the rows, increasing the photosynthesis that takes global warming gasses out of the atmosphere.

"When we understand that vital partnership is going on, it gives us an opportunity to try to heal our climate by healing our land," she says.

The conference will also look at a number of other important issues, including radioactive oilfield waste, coal exports and the Tongue River Railroad, and rural electric co-ops. To find out more go to northern plains dot org.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MT