Carbon – Agriculture’s New Cash Crop

At the time of this writing, the confirmation hearing for Secretary Tom Vilsack’s nomination for Secretary of Agriculture under President Biden is currently underway.  One of the key cornerstones of Secretary Vilsack’s agenda is to help farmers capture, store, and get paid for the new cash crop in agriculture – Carbon.

Generations of farm families have struggled against commodity pricing, droughts, floods, insects, fires, labor shortages, and every other challenge that comes with growing food and fiber to feed and clothe the world – the prospect of having a new “cash crop” is a timely and much needed blessing.  The beauty of the potential of this new crop is that it can be done in addition to growing primary crops – it’s not “either or”.  The sequestration of carbon and long-term health of how food and fiber are produced is being recast as “regenerative agriculture” and it’s requiring farmers to do things differently.

At the heart of the regenerative agriculture movement is the soil.  The life-blood of agriculture.  The primary soil health practices of cover cropping, crop rotation, no-till/reduced tillage, and nutrient management are all integral to a regenerative agriculture and “carbon farming” practice.  These soil health practices are proven effective at increasing water infiltration, improving wildlife and pollinator populations, and increasing carbon sequestration in the land.  Although proven effective, some of these practices take significantly longer for farmers to realize an impact on their lands, and feel it in their bank accounts.  At a time when we are asking our farmers to feed more people with fewer resources and have less impact on the environment – farmers deserve an accessible, affordable, and immediate return-on-investment option to help them build their carbon farming/regenerative agriculture practice.

One key tool available today that can help farmers establish their carbon crop – but also maximize yields, minimize irrigation requirements, and control run-off is Calcium Sulfate Dihydrate (CSD).  Traditionally known as “gypsum”, CSD’s use in agriculture can be traced back hundreds of years and was often thought of a one-off product to be used for adding macro-nutrients to the soil, or helping to remediate sodic or high saline soils, or sequester heavy metals like Aluminum, or treat compacted soils, or minimize irrigation requirements during a drought.  The value that a highly soluble and pure form of CSD is that it does all of these things, and more, and is the perfect base from which to establish a carbon crop, all while having an immediate impact on the performance and yields on the current traditional crop.

By aggregating or flocculating the soil, CSD creates a permeability that allows water, nutrients and oxygen to infiltrate and go directly where it is needed.  This results in the creation of an environment that enhances the organic matter within the soil (which accounts for only 5% of the soil’s content!) and leads to a healthier soil and more profitable carbon crop. When you add the additional qualities of minimizing run-off, disrupting the denitrification process, and lowering the irrigation requirements, the benefits of CSD to the environment and a regenerative agriculture practice are unmistakable.  The use of CSD or gypsum is recognized as a Conservation Practice Standard by the NRCS (Ac#333) and is available for reimbursement under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in many states. To learn more about the benefits of a highly pure and soluble for of CSD, go to