Peer-reviewed study suggests widespread use of effective farming practices can boost yields and deliver dramatic carbon savings
If farmers around the world changed the way they manage soil health they could deliver an annual emissions cut equivalent to that of the greenhouse gas output of Canada and the Philippines combined.
That is according to a new study released today in Bonn by an international group of scientists from the Chinese Academy of Science, The Nature Conservancy and International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).
The paper, which is published in Scientific Reports, found better soil management from crop farmers could cut annual emissions from the agriculture sector by up to 1.85 billion tonnes per year, the equivalent to taking 400 million cars off the road.
Notably, the actions to deliver this scale of emissions reduction are simple and relatively cheap to scale. They include using more manure, planting 'cover crops' to regenerate soils between harvests, adding mulch to curb herbicide use and practising 'conservation tilling', which leaves crop residues from the previous harvests in the soil to break down naturally.
These practices can all help to boost the ability of soil to store carbon from the atmosphere, prevent erosion, help local wildlife and even lead to higher yields from farmers, the scientists argue.
"Natural climate solutions are essential to address climate change and investing in our soils is a strategy with massive untapped potential - potential we can realise if we start thinking holistically about the kind of interventions and policies needed from top down and ground up," Justin Adams from The Nature Conservancy said. "If we're to deliver on increasing demand for food, sustaining global health, maintaining biodiversity and tackling climate change, then soil is our most underappreciated ally."
The study found potential for significant improvement in farms all around the world, although the US has the largest potential for soil sequestration according to the study, as it has the largest area of croplands in the world.
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