It’s not only a source for good-for-ya foods, it’s a proven carbon sink, able to sequester about 7,000 pounds of carbon per acre annually. So says Timothy LaSalle, CEO of the Rodale Institute – mother institution of Organic Gardening magazine – in this Businesswire story.

Thus if all 434 million acres of American cropland was converted to organic practices, it would be the equivalent of eliminating 217 million cars nearly 88 percent of all cars in the country today and more than a third of all the automobiles in the world.

“The way that we farm may be the single biggest and most undervalued way that we can mitigate global warming,” said LaSalle, a native Californian and a former agriculture professor at Cal Poly. He added that he came to Rodale Institute, headquartered on a working organic farm in Pennsylvania, because he believes Rodale’s 60-plus years of leadership in organics can offer solutions to many of the most serious issues of the day from nutrition and famine prevention to global warming.

The idea is simple: Soil is a natural carbon storehouse and farming techniques that depend upon petroleum-based practices disrupt this natural process. The ecological impact of these conventional agricultural practices is made worse by greenhouse emissions from fertilizer production and nutrient losses. The result is that U.S. agriculture, using petroleum-based methods, contributes nearly 10 percent of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

As more small, local and family farms go organic to meet growing demands of “locavores,” they can follow the lead of the Rodale Institute and become part of the solution in another way besides reducing the carbon footprint from long distance shipping of foodstuff. To guide conventional farmers in converting to organic practices, the Institute has just launched a Web site called Farmers Can Be Heroes.