Studies have shown that conventional arable farming operations in England consume some 17,000 litres of fossil fuels embodied in fertilisers per 100 hectare of land each year. Worldwide, 90 million tonnes of mineral oil or natural gas are processed to nitrogen fertiliser every year. This generates 250 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.
Whilst Governments for example will reward the planting of forests to absorb CO2 and allow exchange of credits for coal burning companies, they are still subsidising these industries and doing very little to making any real difference. It’s a bit like shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic!
If the Governments would recognise the power of carbon sequestration and reward the farmers who are increasing the carbon in their soil, often dramatically when farming practices such as pasture cropping is adopted, then we would see enormous benefits for reducing the effects of carbon emissions and reducing the amount of fossil fuels used.
Advocates of carbon sequestration, such as Dr Christine Jones, have been before the Senate enquiry on Climate Change and what she and others say makes sense and can be proven. Why then doesn’t the Government listen? Could it be that there is no money for industry if biological farming, which promotes carbon sequestration, is promoted?
With their low to no use of synthetic fertilisers and chemicals, biological farming methods reduce CO2 emissions and also boost soil fertility and the humus content of soils which are thus capable of storing greenhouse gas CO2. By using composted residues including animal manure, 50 to 150 kg, depending upon the crop, is saved in synthetic nitrogen fertiliser per hectare which would otherwise need to be produced using non-renewable fuels.
Research figures show that long-term field trials conducted over many years in Switzerland and confirmed in Austria and Germany, have shown that compared to other methods of farming (conventional, integrated production) organic farming enriches 12 to 15 percent more carbon dioxide in the soil. This means that organic farms return 575 to 700 kg CO2 to the soil per hectare a year more than other farmers.*
A further valuable outcome of the biological farming is that soils rich in humus store more water and longer, which is means higher yields during longer dry periods in the summer. The improved water retention potential of soils also protects against sudden and strong rainfall, as rivers rise less rapidly and runoff erosion is slowed.
Biological farming has a leading role to play in restoring the soil, the skin of the earth, and thus should be given increased support to be universally adopted.
*Source: FiBL, Germany, Feb 2007