Farmers Can Boost Crop Yields and Contribute Over 1 Gigatonne of Emissions Reductions

 Published: November 14, 2017 

A study published today in Scientific Reports and conducted by an international group of scientists from the Chinese Academy of Science, The Nature Conservancy and International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) has revealed how crop farming can make a significant contribution to tackling the threat of climate change, important ramifications for the UN COP23 climate talks currently underway in Germany.

Scientists have previously established that crop production depletes soil carbon through intensive tillage and the excessive use of chemical fertilizers, with an estimated 50-70% loss of soil carbon stocks in cropland soils worldwide (Lal, 2004). Since croplands can sequester more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere if farmers use improved farming practices like increased manure, cover cropping, mulching, conservation tillage, fertility management, and other natural climate solutions such as agroforestry, the international group sought to establish where in the world these activities could deliver the greatest carbon sequestration benefit. The results will be presented tomorrow Wednesday 15 November at the UN climate talks.

Using a small increase in soil carbon, that experts say should be attainable in cropped soils almost everywhere, the scientists found that improved soil management in crop farming could contribute to annual carbon emissions reductions of between 0.9 and 1.85 billion tonnes per year, equivalent to the emissions of Canada and the Philippines combined, or removing between 215 and 400 million cars from the roads.