Beginning 30 years ago, farmers stopped leaving their fields fallow during the summer months, in favor of planting seasonal shallow root cash and food crops. This meant that tilled earth was not left out to dry, and biomass was increased. Interestingly, it also increased the probability of rainfall.
It turns out that rather than leaving fields bare, planting fields with shallow-rooted crops, such as corn and teff, in between wheat harvests has myriad advantages. The direct benefits include more economic success for farmers due to increased crop harvests, as well as improved soil health thanks to the stabilized, nutrient-rich topsoil, which would otherwise be eroded by the wind – think Dust Bowl. But the indirect benefits are even cooler (pun intended). The increased crop-cover absorbs, rather than releases, carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas); it cools the region in late spring; and it increases atmospheric moisture. This additional moisture leads to higher rainfall during crucial months of the growing season. To put it simply, farmers altered their land use to increase income, which caused a change in local climate that counteracted the human-caused warming trend.*
This is a wonderful story of modern farmers working with nature. Sure, it could be better (I am a fan of permaculture principles, after all), but let us celebrate improvement where it exists, shall we?
You know what else is good news? It’s Friday! Remember to look on the bright side, and enjoy your weekend!