Sunday, February 11, 2024

Economic barriers to Carbon farming

Farmers in the United States are starting a new journey. This journey is about carbon sequestration, a way to help our planet by drawing down carbon dioxide before it can harm our atmosphere. This significant shift demands farmers to balance environmental stewardship with their livelihoods, incorporating practices such as cover cropping and crop rotation. A recent report from Purdue University tells us more about what farmers are thinking regarding this change.

This report unveils that approximately 10% of farmers have engaged in discussions about regenerative agriculture and carbon sequestration, a figure that has remained relatively stable in recent years. Given the threat of climate change, one might question why broader adoption hasn't occurred. Challenges include the financial return on investment, the learning curve associated with new practices, and the logistical hurdles involved, which can be overwhelming.

To grasp the farmer's perspective, it's essential to put ourselves in their shoes and recognize their dual role: feeding the population and sustaining their families. Due to the buzz around regenerative agriculture and carbon markets, farmers are introduced to initiatives by companies offering payments for environmental services, such as carbon capture on their lands, an important step in the fight against global warming. As stewards of land, farmers are always interested in such programs the financial analysis often reveals that the offered incentives fall short of compensating for the additional costs involved.


The Purdue report indicates that the majority of farmers were paid less than $10 for each ton of carbon captured, with a minority received up to $30 per ton. Considering that an average acre of farmland sequesters approximately one ton of carbon dioxide—with organic farms potentially reaching up to three tons—the current pricing for carbon credits or offsets fails to offset the expenses and efforts required to implement regenerative agricultural practices.

Farmers are eager to contribute to environmental preservation, but the financial equation must balance for the adoption rates to rise. The journey towards a more sustainable agriculture system is complex, necessitating support structures that align economic viability with ecological responsibility. As we navigate this path, it's crucial to foster a framework that empowers farmers to be at the forefront of the fight against climate change, ensuring their efforts are both recognized and rewarded


Tuesday, February 6, 2024

What Is Dirt Really Worth?

In the magnificent tapestry of our world’s history, there lies an ancient wisdom, deeply woven into the cultural fabric of ancient India—a wisdom that not only nourished the body but also nurtured the soul. It’s a wisdom rooted in the sacred understanding of soil, a wisdom that transcends mere scientific knowledge and touches the very essence of our existence.

During the Vedic period, which dates back several millennia, the soil was regarded not as an inert material but as a living entity, a mother to humanity. In this ancient time, the health of the soil was intrinsically linked to human well-being. Just as humans require rest and rejuvenation, there were sacred periods in the agricultural calendar when the soil itself was allowed to rest, to recover, and to regenerate.

The Vedas, some of the world’s oldest written texts, delve into the profound mysteries of existence. The Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva Vedas provide detailed insights into the creation, the purpose of human life, and our duty towards both humanity and the environment. In the ancient Atharva Veda (12.1.12), Earth is depicted as a mother, and humanity as her offspring. This starkly contrasts with the modern perception of soil as mere “dirt” to be exploited, a mindset that has contributed to our current climate crisis.

Soil is more than the ground beneath our feet; it’s a dynamic entity providing essential ecological services. It filters, buffers and transforms elements between the atmosphere and groundwater, nurturing the food chain and serving as a source of water for humans, crops and animals. The Atharva Veda even categorized soils—much like modern science does today—differentiating them into brownish (bhabhru), black (krishna) and red soils (rohini). Ancient Hindus understood which soils were suitable for cultivating various crops, displaying an impressive knowledge of soil management.

                                                  Agnihotra, an ancient Vedic practice for healing

Land preparation was deemed paramount, as detailed in Atharva Veda 12.1.4-6. It emphasized the significance of preparing the land correctly, highlighting that proper preparation could transform even seemingly poor soils into “gold-bearing soils.” Terracing, to prevent soil erosion and harness water for crops, was also a practice well understood and implemented. Soils were revered and treated with profound respect, with prayers uttered before stepping onto the sacred ground.  

Farming wasn’t just a utilitarian task; it was a sacred ritual to invoke the blessings of nature, fostering harmony and coexistence. Hindus recognized lunar influences on crops, animals and humans, integrating lunar rhythms into both spiritual practices and agriculture.  Farmers during the Vedic period used the moon rhythms for both spiritual practices and in agriculture.

This sacred approach to agriculture can still be witnessed in Bali, where temples dot every rice field, and over 40 rituals accompany the journey from sowing to harvest. One remarkable ritual, known as Nyepe, is a “day of silence” when the rice flower transforms into a seed. The entire island observes this silence, a mark of respect for the rice plant’s transformation, for it is considered akin to a human being.

What can we glean from these ancient Hindu practices? It’s the understanding that sacredness in our actions begets sacred outcomes. The climate crisis we face today is not merely a result of external factors but a reflection of our inner climate. In the profound wisdom of our ancestors lies the keys to a regenerative future, where science and spirituality coalesce to nourish both the soil and the soul, ushering in a new era of harmony and sustainability.

Source: HinduismToday

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Innovative Defenses: The rise of RNAi-based solutions in agricultural pest management

In a significant leap forward for sustainable agriculture, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has embraced the future of biopesticide technology by registering Greenlight Biosciences' new active ingredient, Ledprona. This innovative solution against the notorious Colorado potato beetle (CPB) symbolizes the EPA's commitment to advancing sustainable agricultural practices and addressing the challenges of climate change and pest resistance.

The Colorado potato beetle, with its distinctive bronze head and black-and-yellow-striped wings, has long been a farmer's nemesis. Known for its voracious appetite for potato plants and other members of the nightshade family (Solanaceae), this pest has developed mechanisms to metabolize toxins, including those found in chemical pesticides. This adaptability has made the CPB a formidable opponent in the agricultural sector since spreading from the Southwest U.S. in the 1850s.


The introduction of Ledprona, a sprayable RNA interference (RNAi) product, marks a new era in combating the CPB. Its unique mode of action targets a gene essential for protein production, vital for the beetle's survival, effectively silencing it without genetically modifying the organism. This innovation represents the first commercial application of a sprayable double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) pesticide, offering a more effective and environmentally friendly alternative to conventional pesticides.

The journey to this groundbreaking discovery began in the 1860s when farmers first used Paris green to combat the potato beetle. However, the beetle's legendary resistance to insecticides, including modern chemicals like neonicotinoids, has necessitated the exploration of alternative methods. Mechanical methods, such as plowing trenches or using flame-throwing equipment, have been tried but proved inefficient and difficult to scale.

The efficacy of RNAi lies in its specificity and minimal environmental impact, as RNA degrades easily. This technology stems from a natural response to viruses, where cells initiate a defense mechanism against double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), leading to the destruction of the virus's genetic material. Harnessing this response, scientists have developed RNAi pesticides that introduce dsRNA specific to the target pest, causing it to self-destruct at a molecular level.

Companies like GreenLight Biosciences are at the forefront of this technological revolution. With the recent opening of its RNA manufacturing plant in Rochester, New York, GreenLight is positioned as a leader in RNAi pesticide development. Its product targeting the Colorado potato beetle is a testament to the potential of RNAi in controlling pests that have developed resistance to traditional pesticides.

Researchers caution that while potato beetles can develop resistance to RNAi, the technology should be used in conjunction with other pest management tools to minimize or delay this risk. The advent of RNAi is a game-changer for the agricultural industry, offering a more targeted and environmentally sustainable approach to pest control.

Despite these advances, the development and application of RNAi pesticides must be approached cautiously, ensuring that they do not adversely affect non-target organisms. The environmental stability of dsRNA and its formulation in pesticides are critical aspects that require careful consideration. However, its development and deployment represent a harmonious blend of scientific innovation and environmental stewardship, promising a more sustainable future for agriculture. As we embrace these new technologies, the focus remains on balancing efficacy with ecological integrity, paving the way for a more responsible approach to pest control

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Pesticides on the plate: Uncovering the risks in our food chain

 In the current landscape of food production, a disconcerting trend is emerging among major manufacturers—a trend that directly undermines the health of consumers, especially children. A recent report from As You Sow, a non-profit organization focused on shareholder advocacy, paints a stark picture: an industry-wide failure to reduce pesticide levels in foods, with implicated companies averaging a grade of 'F' for their efforts, or lack thereof.

The report, titled "2023 Pesticides in the Pantry: Transparency & Risk in Food Supply Chains," reveals a troubling lack of progress, despite previously set goals for pesticide reduction by 2025 and 2030. This stagnation, in the face of mounting risks, is alarming experts who are concerned about repercussions that extend far beyond the soil. Children are particularly at risk, and studies suggest that the issue begins even before birth, with certain pesticides detected in breast milk and umbilical cord blood.

Further alarming discoveries are highlighted by several studies, which show that some of the most common fruits and vegetables, like berries and apples, carry high levels of pesticides. Even substances like the insecticide acephate, which has been banned, are still present in concerning quantities, highlighting a significant gap in enforcement and oversight.

As climate change exacerbates these issues, the report emphasizes how increased soil temperatures and superstorms lead to the dilution of pesticides' effectiveness and their spread into waterways. This results in the use of greater quantities of these chemicals, perpetuating a cycle of increased exposure.

The food industry's response, as evaluated by As You Sow's stringent 2023 standards, has been disappointing. Even brands that previously showed promise have seen their grades fall as the criteria became more rigorous. A few companies, such as General Mills and ADM, have fared slightly better, yet the overall picture remains grim.

Despite these daunting challenges, As You Sow advocates for a shift towards regenerative agriculture practices—methods that not only enhance soil health and resilience but also have the potential to mitigate some of the damage already done.

However, this push for change meets resistance. Companies are slow to adopt these new practices. While some progress has been noted in the development of strategies and third-party audits, significant areas of concern remain. These include the hazardous impacts of neonicotinoids on pollinators and the lack of farmworker protections in the face of pesticide use. The corporate pace of change is lagging behind the urgency of the situation, prompting advocates to demand more decisive action.

For consumers feeling powerless amid these systemic issues, there is recourse through personal choice. By pivoting towards organic and locally produced food from farmers who embrace sustainable practices, consumers can lower their pesticide exposure. Demanding greater transparency, they can press for the systemic change that appears so elusive when left to the industry alone.

This unfolding narrative around pesticide use and food safety is not just a mere report card on corporate progress—it is a critical engagement in the larger battle for a sustainable and healthful food system


Thursday, October 12, 2023

Drones, the silent aviators revolutionizing agriculture

The advent of technology in agriculture, particularly the emergence of drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), has ushered in a new era of farming. As agricultural landscapes burgeon and complexities mount, drones are becoming indispensable tools in augmenting crop management and enhancing overall efficiency.

Agricultural drones are redefining how we perceive and manage our farms. At their core, these UAVs function as aerial observers, meticulously monitoring crops, and gauging their health, growth rate, and overall vitality. These drones operate akin to scouting crop consultants. They proffer detailed insights into soil conditions, crop health, yield predictions, input management, phenotyping ensuring optimal growth and health of the crops.

An exciting feature of these high-tech marvels is their employment of multispectral and hyperspectral sensors, capable of perceiving light wavelengths beyond human vision, such as infrared. This not only allows drones to furnish a detailed snapshot of crop health but also enables them to detect the otherwise invisible "glow" of thriving plants. This provides farmers with an unprecedented understanding of the true health of their crops.

Types of Drones

The diversity in drone design offers a spectrum of functionalities. Fixed-Wing Drones, resembling small airplanes, are adept at covering vast areas and are primarily harnessed for mapping fields and spotting issues like pests or inconsistent irrigation patterns. In contrast, Single-Rotor Drones, mirroring helicopters, are known for their precision, commonly deployed for specific tasks such as crop monitoring or soil analysis. Multi-Rotor Drones, renowned for their agility, are ideal for short-range tasks, capturing detailed aerial imagery, continually monitoring crop health and used for seeding and spraying of crop protection inputs.

Drone Applications

Drones in agriculture are not just limited to crop monitoring. They are extensively used for land imaging, capturing detailed aerial visuals of farmland, assisting in topographical surveying, and facilitating effective land management. Their prowess extends to evaluating soil quality, moisture levels, and nutrient content, guiding irrigation and fertilization strategies. In livestock farming, drones offer the capability to monitor and enumerate livestock, refining overall herd management. They are also harnessed for tasks as varied as irrigation assessment, precise spraying of chemicals, collecting soil and water samples, and swift troubleshooting. Trials are underway on using drones for pollination. 

Advantages of using drones in Agriculture

The adoption of drones brings forth a myriad of advantages, such as time efficiency through the provision of real-time data, enhanced safety by accessing hazardous areas, improved data quality through high-definition imagery, and significant cost savings by optimizing resources. Moreover, from an environmental perspective, drones ensure accurate application of pesticides and fertilizers, thereby curtailing environmental impact.


However, the path to fully harnessing drones in agriculture is laden with challenges. Regulatory hurdles in many countries impose strict norms on drone operations, potentially hampering their full potential. The high initial investment required for top-tier drones may be daunting for small to medium-sized farmers. Moreover, the vast amount of data generated during flights demands specialized expertise for processing and interpretation. Factors such as limited battery life, weather sensitivities, the need for technical proficiency, potential safety concerns, and integration issues with other agricultural technologies are other notable challenges.

Drones are poised to be pivotal players in the agricultural landscape of the future. They offer unprecedented insights into farmlands, ensuring farmers are better equipped than ever before. As we navigate the challenges and embrace the benefits, drones promise a more sustainable and productive future for agriculture.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Transcending 'Net-zero' targets to a 'Climate positive' paradigm

We're witnessing a relentless and increasingly severe and extreme weather events, like hurricanes, heatwaves, and wildfires, playing out with unrestrained intensity. In this crucible of an ever-intensifying climate crisis, the urgent and emphatic call for reducing greenhouse gas emissions echoes louder than ever before. The need to take immediate action to reduce emissions responsible for climate change has reached a level of urgency never seen before in human history.

Yet, within the confines of this momentous struggle against the relentless onslaught of climate change, it becomes increasingly evident that being merely "net-zero" is an insufficient response. The time has arrived for a paradigm shift, a shift from the comfort of "net-zero," and a resolute commitment to attain "climate positive" outcomes. The concept of net-zero, though commendable in its intentions, often falls short of the audacious ambition demanded by the true magnitude of our climate crisis.



Net-zero, in its essence, embodies a delicate equilibrium—a process of offsetting emissions with the removal of an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from our beleaguered atmosphere. In other words it’s a linear approach ‘a ton out and a ton in’. While this approach represents a step in the right direction, it carries a conspicuous limitation—it preserves the status quo of emissions. It's akin to the act of treading water; a survival mechanism that maintains our current position, but it does not propel us towards the distant shore of environmental recovery.

 The imperatives of our escalating climate crisis beckon us to transcend this state of equilibrium. We must aspire to reach for something more profound, more ambitious—a state of being known as "climate positive." To be climate positive is to venture beyond the minimal requirements dictated by legislation or the adoption of measures designed to construct a facsimile of environmental responsibility. It entails a conscious commitment to actively contribute to the restoration of our planet's fragile ecological equilibrium. It represents an acknowledgment that our duty extends beyond merely avoiding harm; we must endeavor to actively continue doing well that can result in incremental improvements in planetary health.

 For corporate entities, in particular, the clarion call resonates with particular poignancy. Embracing a climate-positive stance necessitates not only the reduction of emissions but also active engagement in initiatives that transcend compliance. It calls for investments in sustainable practices, the widespread adoption of renewable energy, resolute efforts in reforestation, and the deployment of advanced carbon capture technologies that eclipse mere regulatory compliance.

 In essence, this constitutes a seismic paradigm shift—a transition from a posture of defense to one of offense in the battle against climate change. It signifies a recognition that businesses and individuals can be transformational forces, catalyzing meaningful change rather than passively mitigating their environmental impact. The imperative to move beyond the confines of net-zero and into the realm of climate positivity is not merely a moral obligation; it represents an existential imperative. The inexorable forces of climate change respond not to half-measures or well-intentioned gestures but to bold, resolute actions that tilt the scales decisively in favor of our beleaguered planet.

 As humanity grapples with the stark reality of climate change, embracing the ethos of climate positivity emerges not merely as an aspirational ideal, but as a thunderous clarion call for a radical transformation. It signifies a commitment not merely to staunch the bleeding wounds of our ailing planet but to nurture it back to vibrant health. It proclaims, in unequivocal terms, that greenwashing and superficial actions are no longer acceptable currencies in the realm of environmental responsibility.

In the grand narrative of climate action, it is high time to alter the script—to cast aside the notion of net-zero, with its connotations of equilibrium-seeking, and embrace the audacious concept of climate positivity. In doing so, we aim not for a return to the status quo, but for a future in which our planet thrives, rejuvenates, regenerates and flourishes, for generations to come.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Biodynamic Agriculture: A regenerative symphony of farming

            Biodynamic Agriculture: Farming in Service of Life ( Short Film)

Imagine a world where the land, plants, animals, and humans dance in harmonious rhythm, creating a symphony of life. In the heart of this enchanting harmony lies Biodynamic Agriculture, a transformative approach that transcends mere farming and becomes a profound connection to the very essence of nature itself. Three years ago, a captivating short film titled "Biodynamic Agriculture: Farming in Service of Life" was released, leaving a trail of awe and inspiration that continues to reverberate in the hearts of many. It's a tale of rediscovery, a journey back to the roots of traditional knowledge systems and the embrace of nature's wisdom. I had an opportunity to participate in this wonderful short film.

In the orchestration of Biodynamic Agriculture, the land is not just a canvas for crops; it's a vibrant entity, a self-sustaining organism interwoven with the delicate threads of the ecosystem. This holistic perspective, a cornerstone of biodynamic farming, extols the profound interdependence of soil, plants, animals, and humans. Each note in this symphony contributes to the grand harmony of life.

Gaze upwards, and you'll find the moon, planets, and stars composing their celestial melodies. Biodynamic farming doesn't just look to the Earth for guidance; it turns its gaze to the cosmos, aligning its rhythms with celestial cycles. Planting and harvesting are guided by the moon's dance, and planetary alignments become cosmic cues for nature's symphony. It's the belief that these celestial rhythms infuse vitality into plant growth, painting the landscape with a vibrant brush.

Biodiversity takes center stage in this captivating composition. Biodynamic farms cultivate ecosystems that mirror nature's intricate patterns. Polyculture fields and graceful crop rotations choreograph a dance that minimizes pests, diseases, and soil degradation. It's a ballet of balance where every step enhances biodiversity, nurtures life, and harmonizes the landscape.

The essence of life's elixir is found in the preparations—elixirs that bring vitality to the soil and awaken the symphony of microbes. These concoctions, crafted from specific herbs and minerals, enriched with nature's melodies, are applied in delicate measures to orchestrate the dance of microorganisms. It's a poetic alchemy that weaves life into every fiber of the land.

A remarkable serenade of closed nutrient cycles resounds through biodynamic farms. Here, the refrain of self-sufficiency echoes as organic matter is tenderly returned to the Earth, weaving an intricate web of interconnectedness. The farm becomes a stage where nature's grand opera unfolds, a testament to the cycles that sustain life.

In this symphony of agriculture, biodynamic preparations emerge as soloists, their melodies guiding the soil and plants towards resplendent vitality. The cadence of plants, minerals, and animal parts harmonize to awaken a crescendo of health and vigor across the land.

This orchestration aligns seamlessly with the notes of regenerative and sustainable farming. It's a melodic ode to enhanced soil health, nurtured through structured nurturing and enriched by vibrant microbial diversity. The harmony extends to the realm of sustainability, where the virtuoso of closed nutrient cycles plays its part in the symphony of Earth's longevity.

As the seasons change, the melodies of biodynamic farms resonate with nature's rhythm. The virtuosity of diverse crops and companion planting becomes a chorus that supports biodiversity and bolsters pollinators, rendering the landscape a vibrant tapestry of life.

Biodynamic agriculture, a masterpiece that transcends conventions, introduces cosmic and spiritual principles to the canvas of cultivation. It's a holistic masterpiece that weaves threads of interconnectedness, healing the tapestry of the Earth while composing notes of sustainability and resilience. In the face of challenges and skeptics, this symphony of soil health and biodiversity stands as a triumphant crescendo in the realm of regenerative farming. It beckons us to embrace the harmony of life and dance to the rhythm of nature.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Nature-based innovations for climate-resilient rice production

Rice, a versatile crop grown in diverse agro-ecologies, is vulnerable to environmental shifts, especially due to its substantial water requirements. The water foot print of rice is very high. About 3000 to 4000 liters of water is required to produce a kilogram of rice in flooded rice cultivation methods.  However, advancements in sustainable farming practices, such as direct seeded rice, the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) methods, and dryland or rainfed rice cultivation, are offering hope in mitigating methane emissions from conventional rice farming. Adopting these eco-friendly innovations, alongside appropriate seed varieties, holds the key to ensuring a greener and more resilient future for rice cultivation.

Rice cultivation in Bali, Indonesia

The adverse impacts of climate change, characterized by erratic weather patterns and extreme events, pose a direct threat to rice cultivation worldwide. Unpredictable rainfall, prolonged dry spells, and the ingress of seawater in coastal areas disrupt conventional farming practices involving waterlogged conditions, jeopardizing yields. Moreover, intensive rice cultivation has exacerbated methane emissions, contributing to greenhouse gas buildup. To preserve rice as a sustainable and climate-resilient crop, transformative approaches are urgently needed. Some of the practices that can reduce methane emissions are:

Direct-Seeded Rice

Direct-seeded rice (DSR) is a promising alternative to traditional flooded rice cultivation methods. In DSR, rice is sown directly in moist fields, reducing water usage by up to 35% compared to puddled fields. Weed control is achieved through the judicious application of herbicides, leading to substantial labor and cost savings. DSR also boasts faster maturity, making it an attractive option for regions with erratic rainfall patterns. In India, some state governments are offering INR 1500 to INR 4000 per acre to farmers for switching to direct-seeded rice cultivation.

System of Rice Intensification (SRI)

The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is a revolutionary farming method that offers an eco-friendly alternative to conventional rice cultivation. SRI emphasizes a set of agronomic practices designed to optimize plant growth and productivity while minimizing environmental impact. Some of the key components of SRI include:

  • Transplanting young and single seedlings at the 3-leaf stage with wider spacing to promote robust root systems.
  • Maintaining intermittent soil moisture through carefully controlled irrigation, avoiding continuous flooding.
  • Incorporating organic matter into the soil to enhance its fertility and water-retaining capacity.
  • Weeding through mechanical or manual means to minimize herbicide usage.

SRI not only reduces methane emissions by up to 60% compared to traditional flooded rice fields but also enhances water use efficiency and promotes soil health. However, successful implementation of SRI requires the selection of appropriate rice varieties that respond well to these methods and the use of appropriate machinery for scaling operations. 

Please check my blog on Sustainability in Bali: Through the lens of perennial wisdom

Farmer Suweden growing rice adopting SRI method in Bali

Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) Methods

Another effective approach to reducing methane emissions is the implementation of Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) methods. Unlike continuous flooding, AWD allows for periodic drying and re-flooding of rice fields, maintaining an aerobic environment that suppresses methane production. By alternating the water level in the fields, AWD significantly reduces methane emissions while still supporting healthy rice growth.

Dryland or Rainfed Rice Cultivation

Recognizing the challenges posed by water scarcity and irregular rainfall patterns, dryland or rainfed rice cultivation methods offer viable solutions. In these systems, rice is grown without continuous flooding, relying solely on natural precipitation or limited irrigation. These methods not only save water but also contribute to lower methane emissions.

Selecting Appropriate Seed Varieties

Adopting eco-friendly rice cultivation practices necessitates choosing suitable seed varieties that respond well to SRI, AWD, dryland, or rainfed conditions. Scientists and agricultural experts are continuously developing climate-resilient rice varieties that thrive under varying water regimes. By selecting high-yielding, drought-tolerant, and submergence-resistant varieties, farmers can ensure sustainable rice production in the face of changing climatic conditions.

Climate change poses significant challenges for rice production, demanding innovative and sustainable solutions. Embracing eco-friendly technologies such as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) methods, alongside dryland or rainfed rice cultivation, is crucial in reducing methane emissions and conserving water resources. Additionally, the selection of appropriate seed varieties enhances the resilience of rice crops in the changing climate. By collaborating closely with researchers, farmers, seed companies and policymakers, rice producing countries can achieve a greener and more sustainable rice revolution, safeguarding its agricultural heritage for generations to come.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Webinar on "Regenerative Agriculture - A beacon of hope for restructuring food and agriculture systems"

Agriculture is facing numerous challenges, from soil degradation and water scarcity to biodiversity loss and climate change impacts. Regenerative agriculture holds the potential to not only address the pressing issues faced by modern agriculture but also create significant value for businesses operating in the sector.

 Ecosystem restoration:

Soil degradation is a major challenge plaguing conventional agriculture. Decades of intensive farming practices, including excessive pesticide and fertilizer use, have stripped the soil of its fertility and biology leading to reduced yields and diminished ecosystem health. Regenerative agriculture, on the other hand, focuses on restoring and enhancing the health of the soil through a set of ecological practices and integration of livestock supporting circularity. By implementing practices such as cover cropping, crop rotation, and organic fertilization, animal husbandry, regenerative farmers can improve soil structure, increase water-holding capacity, and enhance nutrient cycling. These measures not only lead to healthier crops but also promote biodiversity and mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration.


Climate change poses a significant threat to global food production. Extreme weather events, shifting precipitation patterns, and rising temperatures disrupt agricultural systems and jeopardize food security. Regenerative agriculture helps building resilience in farming systems. Practices like agroforestry, conservation agriculture, and holistic grazing, alternate wetting and drying system of rice cultivation help to mitigate climate change impacts by enhancing water retention, reducing soil erosion, and promoting carbon sequestration. By implementing regenerative practices, farmers can adapt to changing climatic conditions and ensure the long-term sustainability of their operations.

Creating Value for Businesses:

Regenerative agriculture not only addresses environmental concerns but also creates value for businesses, including those in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) sector. Consumers today are increasingly conscious of the environmental and social impact of the products they purchase. By embracing regenerative agriculture, CPG businesses can differentiate themselves in the market by offering sustainable and ethically sourced products. Companies that integrate regenerative practices into their supply chains can enhance their brand reputation, attract environmentally conscious consumers, and drive customer loyalty. Additionally, regenerative agriculture can help businesses reduce their carbon footprint, comply with sustainability regulations, and build resilient supply chains in the face of climate-related disruptions.

Several leading CPG companies have already recognized the potential of regenerative agriculture and are actively incorporating it into their business models. For instance, General Mills, Nestle, PepsiCo and others has partnered with farmers to implement regenerative practices, resulting in improved soil health, reduced chemical inputs, and increased yields. AB InBev, a major beverage company is investing in regenerative farming projects, supporting farmers in transitioning to sustainable practices and ensuring a stable supply of ingredients. These companies are not only reaping the benefits of regenerative agriculture but also inspiring others in the industry to follow suit.

From Suspicion to Trust: The VCMI Claims Code and the Future of Voluntary Carbon Markets

 In the global effort towards climate change mitigation, voluntary carbon markets (VCMs) have emerged as a potential game-changer and a glimmer of hope. These markets offer a unique opportunity to bridge financing gaps, facilitate corporate transitions to Net Zero, and support countries' sustainable development objectives. However, the major challenge for VCMs has been the integrity  and transparency of carbon credits.

On 28th June, 2023  the Voluntary carbon markets Integrity Initiative (VCMI) launched its Claims Code that aims to address the critical need for integrity in voluntary carbon markets. The Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative (VCMI) is an international non-profit organization with a mission to enable high-integrity voluntary carbon markets (VCMs) to deliver real benefits to environment and avoid hype and claims regarding net zero emissions. After two years of extensive research and stakeholder engagement, the Claims Code published a comprehensive framework for companies, individuals, investors, and governments to navigate the complexities of carbon credits and make credible claims regarding their climate commitments.

The Claims Code emphasizes the need of going beyond business-as-usual practices. Carbon credits should be generated through activities that truly benefit host communities and increase overall greenhouse gas mitigation, rather than merely substituting existing actions. By adhering to high integrity rules, VCMs can earn the trust of stakeholders, attract investments, and unleash their full potential.                                                                                                                                                                                         

The Claims Code operates through a four-step process, ensuring compliance with foundational criteria aligned with the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. The four steps are;

  1.     Companies must disclose their greenhouse gas emissions,
  2.     Set science-based reduction targets
  3.     Demonstrate progress towards those targets
  4.     Advocate for ambitious climate regulation.

Additionally, companies can make VCMI Claims in three tiers: Silver, Gold, and Platinum, each requiring the purchase and retirement of high-quality carbon credits based on the percentage of remaining emissions ranging from 20 to 100 percent.

To uphold the credibility of claims, the Claims Code has set stringent requirements for carbon credit use and quality. Only credits meeting the ICVCM Core Carbon Principles and VCMI Assessment Framework could be utilized, ensuring they contribute to global net zero goals and drive market integrity.

Third-party assurance plays a vital role in substantiating VCMI Claims. Transparent reporting and disclosure of key information are necessary to validate compliance with the Foundational Criteria and Claim-specific requirements. By providing this assurance, companies can bolster their climate ambition and build trust with stakeholders.

Looking ahead, the Claims Code will continue to evolve, with the development of additional modules, guidance, and provisions for specific sectors and geographies. As VCMI expands, it aims to complement comprehensive climate policy and regulations, emphasizing that voluntary action alone is insufficient to combat climate change. The launch of the VCMI Claims Code marks a significant step toward unlocking the transformative power of voluntary carbon markets. By fostering transparency, credibility, and accountability, this framework has the potential to shape the future of climate action, accelerate the global transition to Net Zero, and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Webinar on "Turning Trash to Cash : Assessing waste based opportunities"

I had the privilege of sharing my insights and perspectives on the tremendous potential of food waste valorization. With an astonishing 2.5 billion tons of food waste generated globally each year, it is clear that we face a significant challenge. However, within this challenge lies a remarkable opportunity to not only reduce the negative impact on the economy and environment but also to generate new revenue resources. This webinar aimed to explore the possibilities and shed light on how we can harness food waste to create a sustainable and profitable future. 

 Food waste is a pressing issue that affects countries worldwide. The sheer magnitude of food waste raises concerns about its social, economic, and environmental implications. Globally, we witness the loss of valuable resources such as water, energy, and labor that go into producing, processing, and distributing food. Moreover, the decomposing food waste in landfills releases greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change. Addressing this crisis requires innovative approaches and a shift towards a circular economy mindset. 

 The concept of food waste valorization revolves around finding value and purpose in what was previously discarded. It involves transforming food waste into valuable resources through various processes, such as recycling, repurposing, and upcycling. By adopting these strategies, we can divert food waste from landfills and create a positive impact on both the economy and the environment. 

 One of the key highlights of this webinar was the exploration of revenue generation possibilities through food waste valorization. Instead of perceiving food waste as a burden, we can view it as a potential resource for new business ventures and revenue streams. By adopting innovative technologies and approaches, we can unlock the latent value within food waste. 

 During the webinar, I delved into case studies and success stories where organizations and entrepreneurs have effectively utilized food waste valorization to their advantage. From the production of biogas, biofuels, and fertilizers to the creation of sustainable packaging materials and food additives, the potential applications of food waste valorization are vast. These success stories demonstrated that by embracing circular economy principles, companies can simultaneously reduce waste, enhance sustainability, and generate economic benefits. 

 The webinar focuses on answering critical questions surrounding food waste valorization. Can we truly transform food waste from an environmental liability into an economic asset? How can we incentivize businesses and individuals to adopt food waste valorization practices? What are the technological advancements and strategies required to drive the widespread adoption of food waste valorization? These questions were addressed through engaging discussions, expert insights, and real-world examples, providing participants with a comprehensive understanding of the opportunities and challenges associated with food waste valorization.


Wednesday, June 21, 2023

How technology is helping farmers grow more food with less chemicals

I had the pleasure of engaging in a captivating conversation with Matt Blois, the reporter from the renowned Chemical and Engineering News journal. From the moment our discussion began, it became abundantly clear that Matt possessed a remarkable talent for extracting information from experts with finesse and flair. He graciously provided me with the freedom to express myself in the manner I deemed most fitting, resulting in a dynamic and invigorating dialogue that spanned the course of an entire hour. Our exchange was nothing short of enthralling, leaving me both intellectually stimulated and invigorated. I am delighted to share the fruits of our conversation. Click the link " How Technology is Helping Farmers Grow More Food with Less Chemicals."

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Soil Organic Matter (SOM): How to measure ?

I often encounter a common question on measuring soil organic matter (SOM) while discussing regenerative agriculture. It’s followed by another query on the relationship between soil organic carbon (SOC) and SOM. let me try to clarify such confusion in this article.

Soil organic matter contains plant and animal tissues at different stages of decomposition. It comprises carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and small amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other elements. Depending on how old the organic matter is it is categorized into passive and active types. Passive SOM consists of materials that are several decades old while residues in active SOM are few years old.

Broadly SOM fractions can be divided into 3 types. The interaction of plants and microorganisms produce byproducts during decomposition plus root exudates and sugars referred to as dissolved organic matter. It’s a continuous process that keeps happening every moment. Dissolved organic matter contributes to less than 5% of the total soil organic matter composition. The second type is fresh, decomposing plant and animal tissues called particulate organic matter. Depending on the soils it contributes up to 25% of SOM. Humus is the next category that is dark black or brown organic matter that is formed in the soil due to the decaying plant and animal residues. In fertile soils humus constitutes up to 50% of SOM and is the stable organic matter.

Soils with high organic matter offer several benefits for farmers and ranchers like,

-  Improves aeration, water holding capacity, infiltration and prevents runoff.

Nutrient storehouse for crops and provides essential nutrients over time (cation exchange capacity CEC)

Enhances soil microbial activity and diversity and provides nutrition for billions of diverse microorganisms.

 Soil carbon is often mentioned during discussions on carbon sequestration, carbon offsets, regenerative agriculture and climate smart agriculture. Interestingly carbon is called the ‘king of elements’. The term carbon is derived from Latin ‘carbo’ meaning coal. In the human body carbon is the second most abundant element after oxygen. Soil carbon is that carbon component of organic compounds that is measurable. It is difficult to measure soil organic matter directly in the lab, hence laboratories measure and report soil organic carbon. In other words, soil organic carbon is the measurable part of SOM.

Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) plays a vital role in sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and addressing the climate crisis.  Farm management that facilitates building soil organic carbon in agricultural and pastoral lands over a period helps to significantly reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide. It's important to know how to measure SOC and estimate SOM, without measurement it would be difficult to identify the gaps for scientifically improving farm management. 

Let me discuss how to measure SOC and estimate SOM in a hectare of farmland. 

The first step is to collect the soil samples following the standard procedures using a soil probe or auger and dispatch it to a nearby lab for analysis. From the lab report check on the total organic carbon percentage that will be used for calculating soil organic matter. On an average it has been found that about 58% of the mass of organic matter in soil is carbon. While estimating the percentage of Soil organic matter (SOM) from Soil organic carbon (SOC) a conversion factor 1.72 is used (100/58 =1.72).

 Let’s presume SOC is 2.5% of a farm. SOM is calculated as follows;

SOM (%) = SOC (%) x1.72

               = 2.5x1.72

               = 4.3%

In this example the soil organic matter is 4.3%. 

The SOM (%) can be converted into weight for a given depth and area. It helps to estimate organic matter in tons per hectare of soil. From the soil analysis data, bulk density and soil organic carbon values are required for estimation. The calculation is simple.

SOC in tons of carbon per hectare = SOC x bulk density (tons per cubic meter) x depth (meters) 

Let’s consider a hypothetical soil analysis data comprising SOC (2.5%), bulk density 1.1 grams per cubic centimeter and soil depth 10 centimeters. It’s important to convert SOC% to decimals(0.025), bulk density into tons per cubic meter (1.1 tons/cubic meter) and depth in meters (0.1 meters) per hectare (10,000 square meters) 

SOC tons/hectare = (0.025) x (1.1 x 0.1 x 10,000)

                           = 27.5 tons of carbon/hectare (t C/ha)

Further SOM per hectare can be deduced using the above conversion factor of 1.72. The amount of Soil organic matter would be 27.5 x 1.72 = 47.3 tons of organic matter per hectare.

Estimating SOM every year or at least once every 2 years to assess the management practices adopted in the farm is vital in regenerative agriculture. It helps to course correct some of the practices that are contributing to the loss of soil organic matter from farms and ranches. Soil organic matter is the lifeline of the soil, farmers need to take utmost care in preventing its loss. Growing leguminous cover crops, crop rotation, cultivating perennial forage crops, application of compost, agroforestry and silvi-pastoral systems, reduced tillage, contour planting and several regenerative agriculture practices that are appropriate to the region help in building soil organic matter and sequester carbon.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Low-cost solutions to tackle climate crisis? Let's start with our own kitchen wastes

When we think of climate change, some of the solutions that come to our mind are shifting to green technologies in industry, agriculture, transportation, energy coupled with legal binding climate enabling policies at national and international level. These macrolevel solutions no doubt are vital to address climate change. However, the moot question is what you and I can do to mitigate the current crisis. Some of the steps that we can take is to reduce the wastage of water, food, drive electric car, use energy efficient gadgets and more. But it’s not enough to reduce the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

We, the human species are responsible to a large extent to the current climate crisis. The way we live, eat and act matters a lot. Rehumanizing the connection between humans and nature is becoming more important in the current context. No animal produces as much wastes as human beings generate.  Lets take the example of household wastes. What do we do with them? Conveniently we dispose our wastes into a trash can, which gets into a larger trash can that gets picked up by the city municipality which further gets into landfill, a much larger trash can. Landfills have a limited capacity to hold wastes, eventually it gets filled, after few years new landfill sites are identified and the same process continues.  

If you have visited landfills, they are not pleasant sites. Whenever we drive pass landfills immediately we turn on the air recirculation button to avoid the stench getting inside the car. Landfills liberate several gases and the liquid that comes out of degrading wastes (leachate) is toxic to environment and pollutes water bodies. In addition, landfills are the breeding ground from rodents and animals. Most of the problems in the landfills are due to the biodegradable wastes that we throw in the trash cans. The common household biodegradable wastes are food wastes, vegetable and fruit peels and garden wastes. Instead of throwing these wastes they can be transformed into sweet smelling compost. It doesn’t require compost turners or special bins. If you have a small garden you can bury these wastes in the garden during spring and in winter you can compost in any container in your garage or outside.

Personally, I manage my household kitchen wastes and try to motivate my friends to manage their wastes. I would like to share a story of my friend Mr. Shreyas Nayak who lives close to my residence in Fairfield, Iowa. Shreyas and his wife Reena got interested into turning wastes to wealth and they share their experience.

Household Kitchen Waste composting journey- Experiences of Nayak family in Fairfield, Iowa

Our journey on composting our kitchen waste started in May of 2020.This was after the first COVID-19 lockdowns and gatherings of up to 10 people were allowed. We invited Dr. Thimmaiah to a barbeque on our deck wherein we decided to try making rice pancakes (dosa) on the grill.  It was a super duper successful effort and we enjoyed the gathering.

Shreyas and Thimmaiah
Shreyas and Thimmaiah

Making rice pan cakes (dosa) on the grill

In between our fun, frolic and experimentations, Dr. Thimmaiah walked over to our vegetable garden patch to inspect the quality of our soil. He immediately identified the lack of organic material in our soil as the reason for our poor crops the previous 2 years.  Shrey – you need to increase the organic content of this soil, he said.  How do we go about that, we asked.  For the next 1 to 2 years, you have to put all your kitchen waste in this patch of soil, he responded.

And that is how our endeavor to prevent our kitchen waste from entering the Iowa landfills started and it has now become an obsession.

Collecting kitchen wastes in a container 

We selected a couple of containers, with tight lids on  them, to store all our kitchen waste of a few days (usually a week or so).  These included all vegetable and fruit peels, cut off unusable pieces of bread and other foods gone bad. It really included everything you can literally think of including coffee and tea grounds, juices and milk products gone bad, paper napkins, etc , but excluded plastic, metals, aluminum and other non-biodegradable products.

Once we’ve collected enough waste, say in about a week or so, we would go to our vegetable garden patch and dig a hole about a feet or so deep.  Drop in all the kitchen waste and cover it back up with soil completely (the one that came from digging the hole). 

Digging a shallow pit (1 feet deep)

Kitchen wastes in the pit.


Covering the wastes with soil
Wooden planks to prevent rodents



This felt very fulfilling and mentally rewarding when we began and the joy lasted for about 2 to 3 weeks. Then the trouble started. Living in Iowa which is full of critters like ground hog, gophers, squirrels, raccoons, etc, one day when we went to work on our patch, we realized that the critters had sniffed out our waste and started digging out our composting waste. So we had to think about reinforcements to prevent the kitchen waste getting raided by the critters.

Fortunately we had some wood planks lying in the backyard.  We figured that strong / hard cardboard pieces would also do the trick.  We started covering our composting waste with wooden planks and laying some bricks on top of them to prevent the critters from getting into the waste. 

Vegetables grown from using wastes

We were diligent in the effort from May 2020 to November 2020 and could really tell the difference it was making to our soil and our plants.  The plants started having thicker stems and providing us a lot more produce, not to forget a much healthier produce than the past.  Plus the land and the plants did not need as much watering as the plants got a lot of their food/nutrients from the kitchen waste buried in the soil.

Middle of November or so, the ground started freezing up as temps went below 32F here in Iowa. We thought that it was the end of our composting of kitchen waste till next spring. The next batch of our kitchen waste that we had collected was about to give into our garbage can and then onto the landfill but before doing that, we decided to check with Dr. Thimmaiah if there were any other options available to us. 

As usual, Dr. Thimmaiah’s brilliance shone thru.  He said that we could compost our waste in buckets inside our garage.  The temperature in our garage ranges at about 45F and Dr. Thimmaiah said that at that temp there should still be some microbial activity to allow for composting of the kitchen waste. At these cold temperatures breakdown of wastes is very minimum. 

He shared the following pic with us on how he was doing it and that is all we needed to embark on this journey. Dr. Thimmaiah explained - Use a burlap bag in a bucket.  Start with 1 to 2 inches of soil or compost.  Add your kitchen waste on top and cover it up with 1 to 2 inches of soil or compost or potting mixture. Keep repeating to the top of the bucket.

Composting in a burlap bag during winter

Covering the wastes with compost or soil


So, we used one of our garbage cans for this effort.

Composting in a garbage can
Wastes covered with soil or compost


We are glad and surprised that because the waste is covered with the soil, there is absolutely no stench at all.

So here we are at the middle of February 2021.  Since May of 2020 to present – there has been no kitchen waste going into the landfills of Iowa from the Nayak household.

This has now become such an obsession that we look forward to burying our kitchen waste into the soil every week.  We collect our waste for the entire week and bury it in our soil on the weekends. When we get back into spring, March / April timeframe, we look forward to taking this fertile soil and spreading it on our vegetable garden patch for another awesome crop in 2021.

Myself and my wife both have full-time jobs that require about 9 to 10 hours of commitment each day. Apart from that we also spend an hour or so meditating each day and then another hour or so working out.  We also cook and eat at home most if not all the time. If with such a schedule, we are able to accommodate composting kitchen waste in our soil, we think most others should also be able to do it.

Do take on this journey.  It will be one of the most fulfilling endeavors of your life.