What We Owe to George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver

To solve the world’s environmental problems, "sustainable" agriculture is no longer good enough as we are losing soils ten times faster then we can build them. Regenerating, or "building soil" is the key to solving these problems. George Washington Carver's research on crop rotation was critical to this work.

Creative Commons.

In honor of Black History Month, we recognize the extraordinary pioneer in agricultural research

In honor of Black History Month, we remember George Washington Carver, a scientist and pioneer in agricultural research. His work was fundamental to many important environmental practices used today. In particular, his research is critical to a number of CBF initiatives as it relates to today’s push for regenerative agriculture. Regenerative agriculture is in a renaissance of sorts where agriculture is part of the solution to improving water quality, sequestering carbon, and mitigating climate change while improving soil health for the next generation of farmers. To solve the world’s environmental problems, "sustainable" agriculture is no longer good enough as we are losing soils 10 times faster then we can build them. Regenerating, "building soil" is the key to solving these problems.

Carver’s research on crop rotation is critical to regenerating soil. Years of growing cotton had depleted nutrients from the soil, resulting in low yields. But by growing legumes, nitrogen-fixing plants like peanuts, soy beans, and sweet potatoes, the soil could be restored. He taught farmers they could feed hogs acorns as opposed to them having to purchase expensive commercial feed, and they could enrich croplands with "swamp muck" (organic matter) instead of fertilizers. He traveled to other countries to share his research findings helping many with increasing food production.

Some of the CBF’s agriculture initiatives rest on the shoulders of George Washington Carver’s research. They include:

  • The Million Acre Challenge: The goal of this partnership is to get half of Maryland’s farm land (a million acres) to "regenerative" status. Building soil through encouraging permanent cover of the soil, sequestering carbon and maintaining a diversity of species, including legumes, which reduce the need for fertilizers which impact water quality and the Bay. 
  • Mountains to Bay Grazers Alliance: A Bay-wide partnership to encourage the conversion of monoculture row crops, like corn and soy beans grown as animal feed, to permanent diverse pastures for rotational grazing. Planting a “salad bar”, a diversity of plant species as forage for the animals is the key to success.
  • CBF's Clagett Farm: Last but certainly not least is CBF’s own Clagett Farm, a working model of regenerative agriculture. Growing a diversity of crop species, practicing crop rotation as well as the rotational grazing of sheep and cattle on diverse permanent pastures. What had been a tabacco farm for a century resulting in some of the worst soils in the county due to erosion is now a garden of Eden. 


Carver's contributions were many and instrumental in leading the way to healthy agricultural practices. And yet, sadly much of the regenerative agriculture renaissance does not mention the many minorities that provided the principles on which it is based. We recognize Carver for his extraordinary work—were it not for his tireless efforts, the agricultural world would be a very different landscape.

—Rob Schnabel, CBF's Maryland Restoration Scientist

Issues in this Post

Agriculture   Regenerative Agriculture  




DISCLAIMER

PLEASE READ OUR TERMS OF USE

The views and opinions expressed in the media, articles or comments on this site are those of the speakers or authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by CBF and the inclusion of such information does not imply endorsement by CBF. CBF is not responsible for the contents of any linked Web, or any link contained in a linked Web site, or any changes or updates to such Web sites. The inclusion of any link or comment is provided only for information purposes. CBF reserves the right to edit or remove any comments and material posted to this website and to ban users from the site without notice. Partisan, pornographic or other inappropriate content, product or service promotion, foul language or bad behavior is expressly forbidden and will be removed.


The Bay Needs You

The 2020 State of the Bay Report makes it clear that the Bay needs our support now more than ever. Your donation helps the Chesapeake Bay Foundation maintain our momentum toward a restored Bay, rivers, and streams for today and generations to come.

Donate Today

Stay Up-to-Date on Bay News

Want to stay up-to-date on all news and happenings in your region and across the Chesapeake watershed? Join our digital community.

Sign Up
x
This website uses cookies to tailor and enhance your online experience. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. For more information, including details on how to disable cookies, please visit our Privacy Policy. Close