“Organic matter and organic carbon are related to one another by a factor of two. Soil organic matter is about 50% soil organic carbon. So, in a healthy soil, soil organic carbon concentration in the root zone, should it be about 2%, which means the soil organic matter content should be about 4%…” – Rattan Lal, Soil Scientist, Ohio State University.
In June 2020, soil scientist Rattan Lal was named the recipient of the 2020 World Food Prize, an award established in 1986 by agronomist Norman Borlaug. The international honor is given each year to recognize individuals who have improved the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.
Originally from India, Lal has worked all around the globe, but has called Ohio State University home since 1987. In the 1970s, his research diverged from the conventional reliance on commercial fertilizers and he began to develop theories about the role of carbon on soil health and the impacts on nutrient management and yields. His research led to a better understanding of how no-till farming, cover crops, crop residues, mulching, and agroforestry can restore degraded soils, increase organic matter, and help combat rising carbon dioxide levels in the air.
For this episode of the No-Till Farmer podcast, I caught up with Lal by phone and talked with him about how he came to focus on carbon instead of synthetic inputs, the connection between the health of the soil and human vitality, how carbon affects the soil’s ability to hold onto nutrients and water, the 5 components of conservation agriculture, optimizing production instead of maximizing production and much more!
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Intro Music: Adam Selzer - True North
Interlude Music: Alialujah Choir - Little Picture (Instrumental)