Seriously, you don’t know how to measure carbon in the soil? Batteries are not required. Peter Donovan fashioned for me two steel infiltration rings. Pound it into the ground with a rubber mallet and pour in one tuna fish can worth of water. (As long as you use the same can precise volume does not matter.) Time the period it takes for the water to sink into the ground. Faster the water disappears the more carbon-rich the soil in the ground.

In this hands-on low-tech way, lawn owners actually see how much more carbon they are capturing when they do not spread fertilizer on top. Instead of spending on lawn care, let grass plants benefit from symbiosis with fungi and bacteria. When plants pump out carbohydrates, liquid carbon, as root exudate, fungi and bacteria reciprocate giving the plants nutrients and minerals. Left to their own rhizospheres, a natural lawn can put down an inch of soil in a year. For every ton of soil, grass plants must pull out of the atmosphere four tons of CO2.

Save energy and wildlife by cutting lawns every three weeks, not weekly. This practice in Springfield MA resulted in lawn flowers pollinated by 93 species of bees.

One obstacle for carbon farming may be your investors are stuck in the mindset having spent much on carbon offsets for the planting of trees, very easy to measure. Apparently, the only carbon cycle they know is one of rapid growth, death, and decay. A cycle that turns mostly every fifty to a hundred years, sometimes in very old forests longer (not many of those left unfortunately).

The second major carbon cycle is the deep drawn of soil where it will stay for well over a thousand plus years, unless the turf is broken and soil exposed.

Let’s do the numbers. Earth’s biotic pool, the living biome of all the biomass of plants, animals and detritus such as leaf litter, accounts for about 560 billion metric tons or 1.2% of the world’s carbon.

The Earth account of soil is about 2.5 trillion tons or 5% of the global carbon.

A carbon tax on emissions is only a market incentive that is mostly punitive. A more holistic approach would be to return funds raised on emissions with credits or cash for carbon farming. This would turn a positive feedback system to discourage the burning of fossil fuels and reward responsible farmers and lawn owners for creating richer soils, better local water cycles, healthier local foods and social amenities that include greater contact with nature.

Rob Moir, Ph.D. is Executive Director of the Ocean River Institute. He writes Clam Chowdah dot org blog and hosts Moir’s Environmental Dialogues iTalk radio.