Reducing emissions from agriculture is a complicated task

FarmMedia Glacier – There is no one-size-fits-all solution for Canadian farmers reducing greenhouse gas emissions while continuing to grow food to help feed a hungry world, says a soil scientist.

Why does it matter: Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to reducing GHG emissions from agriculture will not work, according to a new report.

“It simply came to our notice then. That’s why I think it’s not something we can find a solution that is as easy as a consistent solution that will work for everyone, “said Ymène Fouli, a research associate at the University of Calgary.

She is the co-author of a recent report by the Simpson Center for Agricultural and Food Innovation and Public Education at the university’s School of Public Policy. It analyzed estimates and measurements of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from Canadian agriculture.

Agriculture is said to have been the source of about 10% of Canada’s total emissions of 729 megatons in 2018.

Methane and nitrous oxide are the main GHGs that agriculture emits with 38 and 36 percent, respectively, carbon dioxide being responsible for the remaining 26 percent, “the report said.

“Greenhouse plasters come from the enteric fermentation of cattle, the application of synthetic and organic substances fertilizerbiomass decomposition, soil cultivation and tillage, mineralization of soil organic matter and manure, among other sources. ”

Although it is estimated that 53% of current agricultural emissions come from the livestock sector, the report says that intensities decreased between 1981 and 2006, mainly for beef and pork production. The decline was mainly due to more productive animal breeds, improved management practices and better harvests and feed, the statement said.

However, he added that some researchers have estimated that total GHG emissions from the beef sector in Canada were 28% higher in 2011 than in 1981, even though the intensities have decreased. Therefore, convincing consumers to make informed choices to eat less red meat and diversify their meat and protein options is seen as a way to reduce GHG emissions from agriculture.

Producers could also increase production efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint by switching from a single product to multi-product farming systems that integrate crops, beef and dairy products, the report said.

“As we gain a better understanding of GHG emission estimates for different farm scenarios and the largest sources of GHG emissions, the next step is to target these sources and find ways to reduce them while maintaining or improving the financial stability of the farm “, it is said.

“No changes will be made if they are not profitable and do not bring about a positive change in the busy lives of farmers.”

Fouli said the urgency of such efforts was underscored by record heat waves and droughts that hit prairie producers last summer, followed by floods that hit British Columbia in November.

“Well, I mean, the climate is changing everywhere and we don’t know where the next catastrophe will happen and it affects everyone. And that’s why this is the beginning of a conversation that everyone really needs to have. “

The report highlighted the range of variables and patterns that researchers face while assessing agricultural practices that can be both a source and an emitter.

“Carbon footprints vary for each subsector of agriculture and their evaluation is a complex effort that involves accounting for each process that takes place during production,” it says.

Models used to simulate agricultural operations include the Integrated Agricultural Systems Model, along with the Canadian Holos model. Such emission models for the entire farm aim to “find ways to target emission sources without hampering the financial sustainability and production of a farm,” the report said.

“Other models focus on simulating the productivity and environmental impact of cropping systems in order to estimate emissions. Other models are used to determine management-based soil carbon change factors. ”

The widespread adoption of prairie farmers by Canadian prairie farmers, such as reduced summer rooting, reduced tillage, and more cover crops, has led to the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere by the soil. Such carbon sequestration helped trigger a decline in net GHGs (emissions minus landfilling) between 1981, when soils were a source, and 2011, the report said.

Different types of farms “produce different amounts of GHGs, whether they are small or farm animals or large beef cattle farms… There are many options available to reduce GHG emissions from agriculture, depending on the type of farm operation” .

However, what works in dry climates and on larger farms in the Prairies may not be appropriate in eastern Canada, Fouli said. Wetter conditions in the latter region often lead to higher emissions of nitrous oxide, especially for crops such as maize that require more nitrogen fertilizers, the report said.

Fouli said producers need to understand that “everything is regional, so they need to understand where you live and what the climate is like and what’s going on in your environment, in your soils, and your business, your market … and to be able to have responsibly a safety. they live and produce food and maintain the economy responsibly. ”

Her report will be followed by a second Simpson Center report that will review policies and make recommendations.

– This article was originally published on Western manufacturer. Reducing emissions from agriculture is a complicated task

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