Rare Earth

(gentle music) – Soil is the basis of terrestrial life. All terrestrial life. Every living things on the planet depends on soil. And yet this material, which is hidden beneath the surface of the
Earth, is under-appreciated. Not recognized. – Dr. Lal is very interested in knowing how agriculture
can be sustainable and what practices can be
shown are not sustainable. – So what we have been trying to do is see if we can restore the health of the soil. – If you raise the soil
quality in the world, you’ve raised food for people. We’re gonna have nine billion people in the foreseeable future. Soil is what’s gonna… (laughs) Soil is everything. (crickets chirping) – Here’s the cover crop that you want. These are radishes and they’re planted, they put a big root down in
the ground about that big and about that deep,
that break up the soil. – No-till farming is, in a simple word, “plow-less” agriculture. Do not plow the land. Plowing was necessary
because of weed control. But now we low control
weed by other methods other than plowing. (tractor engine rumbles) – The cobs and the fodder
are back on the ground. I want you look to see that’s, there’s a complete ground cover. What in today’s atmosphere, with the world thinking
about climate change, Dr. Lal is really the guru
of carbon sequestration. And carbon sequestration
is the low-hanging fruit that we could get, we can
store carbon in the ground, prevent it from going in the atmosphere, and improve soil productivity and or food production for the world. – At the same time, we
have younger generation getting education in that. You know, I feel very privileged. I had 112 students so far, 175 visiting scholars, 56 postdoctorate fellow, 350 people from around the world. So they are ambassadors, not only of this site, what we are doing. But also the Ohio State University. They carry that Ohio State flag with them wherever they go. (stem cracking) (leaves rustling) – So right here, we just harvested a one square meter plot for the corn. And we’re gonna quantify
the total fresh weight of the samples, and then, later on,
quantify the amount of grain and biomass yield for
that one square meter. – Plants are roughly 50% carbon, and so you can take the
yield of a crop, say corn, and you can translate that to carbon and determine how much carbon
is gonna be in the soil. Once we have these yields we
can translate that to carbon, feed it into the model. At this point, the experiment
started in Hoytville and no-till was implemented and you can see that carbon
follows a different trajectory. Look at the difference
in these treatments. If we can do no-till and
we can have better yields and better soil health, then that’s an argument
to put forward to farmers to say, “You know what, you
really should look at this “and consider this.” ‘Cause it’s not only
helping your bottom line, it’s helping the people you feed. So, it’s a win-win. – It’s a great example, to
me, of what is so important about science and what’s
important about the best science, when you make discoveries
that change the way the world’s experts in your field think about the work that they do. And that is what Dr. Lal has done. (soft organ music) – As long as you are consuming
the natural resources, food, water, elements, coming from the soil, you owe it to soil to put something back, to give something back, whatever you can. Otherwise, we have no right to eat. (laughs) – We, as a human society, we think about short-term gains, short-term profit, more than
long-term sustainability. That challenge is a motivator. It’s a driving force. If that’s what drives me to travel, even a day after I come
from one place I’ll go to another place, because
I think it’s important that I convey that
message to policymakers, to heads of states. Just a message that the
life depends on soil. That the human survival depends on soil. That’s the challenge,
that’s the driving force. That is something that is never-ending. It’ll continue long after I’m gone.

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