Chinese scientists have been able to create an organic farm that absorbs more carbon — one of the primary greenhouse gases — than what it emits, thereby greatly boosting the sustainability factor of agriculture.
Though agriculture might be one of the most essential of human occupations, it is quite notorious in polluting the planet. Agriculture contributes roughly 35 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions. That’s billions of tons worth of greenhouse gases added yearly, resulting in global warming, the melting of polar ice, erratic weather like unseasonal rains, hurricanes, and so on. Hence, while agriculture is directly responsible for feeding the world, it is also an active contributing factor in suffocating the planet.
Fortunately, scientists in China believe they’ve found a way to make the critically important practice more sustainable. They managed to create an organic farm that is essentially a carbon sink. Interestingly, they have been able to do so by reverting to the traditional techniques of farming, followed in the historic times when pesticides and other chemical fertilizers weren’t invented.
By replacing commonly used modern-day chemical fertilizers with organic compost, the team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences claims to have created an organic farm that traps, stores, and absorbs more carbon into the soil than the agricultural practice typically releases. What’s equally impressive is the fact that the technique has had no effect on the yield.
Traditional farming techniques have always offered abysmal yields. Hence, farmers have been forced to rely on nitrogen-based fertilizers. From an economic perspective, organic farming wasn’t considered a viable way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What’s the point in storing lots of carbon if the world starves in the process?
Thankfully, Chinese scientists using cattle manure as fertilizer have proven that they can maintain high crop yields while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. In one of the most painfully obvious regenerative and sustainable practices, the team simply used cattle manure to compost the crops, and then fed the cattle the leftover crop residue.
After analyzing the farms by varying the percentage of nitrogen fertilizers from 25-75, 50-50, and so on, they realized that the more natural cattle manure that was used, the better was the system. The all-organic farm was capable of storing the equivalent of 8.8 tons of CO2 annually for each hectare. Using nitrogen fertilizers, on the other hand, added the equivalent of 2.7 tons of CO2 per hectare per year to the atmosphere.
[Image Credit | Science China Press, Smart Agri Post, Green Healthy Farm, Food Cyclist]