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The Organic Silver BB?

by a siegel Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 04:48:48 AM EST

A few days ago, "Can Organics Save Us from Global Warming?" excitedly brought news of a new study from the Rodale Institute entitled Regenerative Organic Farming: A Solution to Global Warming.  After now having taken the time to read this report, it seems worth seconding the excitement ... even if perhaps seeking to dampen it a little bit.

The report lays out a sensible explanation a path toward a far more climate friendly, a much more profitable, and somewhat more productive agriculture system. There long-term research provides quite real and substantive information about productivity implications in the fields; the financial benefits for going 'organic'; the potential large scale benefits; and core challenges to achieving greater results.

Perhaps the greatest challenge arena: knowledge and education:  

Rodale Institute's experience in training thousands of farms from around the world has proven that the shift to regenerative farming practices is both doable and practical. It's the decision to change that's hard.

Promoted with an edit by afew


These words could fit for almost every arena of the challenge for moving toward an Energy Smart future, as the obstacles are almost always not the real, 'number-crunching' implications but creating the pressure and momentum for change to more efficient energy technologies and practices.

Government farm policy must be transformed in a way that incentivizes farms and drives behavioral change toward wide-scale adoption of regenerative farming practices. Success requires a sustained, multi-faceted national public education campaign, training for farmers in regenerative agricultural methods and legislative action.

Again, all too familiar a set of challenges.

Now, to be clear, this does not look to provide "a solution" (not a Silver Bullet) but Rodale's work seems to provide a clear statement as to something that could be "part of the solution path" (e.g., a Silver BB) toward Global Warming and other challenges before us.

The problem, however, is that there is competing work and competing analysis. Being reminded of this, as quoted by Joe Romm, “Tillage and soil carbon sequestration–What do we really know?” (pdf)

In essentially all cases where conservation tillage was found to sequester C[arbon], soils were only sampled to a depth of 30 cm or less, even though crop roots often extend much deeper. In the few studies where sampling extended deeper than 30 cm, conservation tillage has shown no consistent accrual of SOC [soil organic carbon], instead showing a difference in the distribution of SOC, with higher concentrations near the surface in conservation tillage and higher concentrations in deeper layers under conventional tillage.… Long-term, continuous gas exchange measurements have also been unable to detect C gain due to reduced tillage. Though there are other good reasons to use conservation tillage, evidence that it promotes C sequestration is not compelling.
Okay, so it is clear that organic / conservation tillage makes sense for many reasons, there is uncertainty (however) as to whether carbon sequestration benefits are part of this.

From the report

The Rodale report is worth the read.  It makes (and supports) a claim that "practical organic agriculture, if practiced on the planet's 3.5 billion tillable acres, could sequester nearly 40 percent of current CO2 emissions."

Some interesting data/points from the report:

  • Some Midwestern soils that in the 1950s were composed of up to 20 percent carbon are now between 1- and 2-percent carbon. This carbon loss contributes to: soil erosion, by degrading soil structure; increasing vulnerability to drought, by greatly reducing the level of water-holding carbon in the soil; and the loss of soil's native nutrient value.
  • U.S. food system contributes nearly 20 percent of the nation's carbon dioxide emissions. On a global scale, ... agricultural land use contributes 12 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions
  • On a global scale, soils hold more than twice as much carbon (an estimated 1.74 trillion U.S. tons) as does terrestrial vegetation (672 billion U.S. tons).
  • Our studies of organic systems have shown an increase of almost 30 percent in- soil carbon over 27 years. [NOTE: A question, therefore, is how long it would take before a switch to organic systems would sequester the 40 percent that Rodale is asserting?]
  • 33-percent reduction in fossil-fuel use for organic corn/soybean farming systems that use cover crops or compost instead of chemical fertilizer ... Rodale Institute's organic rotational no-till system can reduce the fossil fuel needed to produce each no-till crop in the rotation by up to 75 percent compared to standard-tilled organic crops.
  • Economic benefits

  • yields from the organic systems matched the yields from conventional systems, except in drought years, when regenerative systems yielded about 30 per cent more corn than the petroleum-based system.
  • certified-organic crop prices ranging from 40 to 150 percent higher than standard crop prices
  • Sequestration data

  • During the 1990s, results from the Compost Utilization Trial (CUT) at Rodale Institute--a 10-year study comparing the use of composts, manures and synthetic chemical fertilizer--show that the use of composted manure with crop rotations in organic systems can result in carbon sequestration of up to 2,000 lbs/ac/year. By contrast, fields under standard tillage relying on chemical fertilizers lost almost 300 pounds of carbon per acre per year.  Storing--or sequestering--up to 2,000 lbs/ac/year of carbon means that more than 7,000 pounds of carbon dioxide are taken from the air and trapped in that field soil.
  • In 2006, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion were estimated at nearly 6.5 billion tons. If 7000 lb/CO2/ac/year sequestration rate was achieved on all 434 million acres of cropland in the United States, nearly 1.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide would be sequestered per year, mitigating close to one quarter of the country's total fossil fuel emissions.
  • emissions-cutting equivalent of taking one car off the road for every two acres under organic regenerative agricultural management, based on a vehicle average of 15,000 miles per year at 23 mpg.

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On that figure of the "food system" accounting for 20% of co2. At some point it would have to be taken into account that the US exorts well over $100 billion in foodstuffs annually.  Like the Chines emissions supporting exports to America, it is fair to ask to whom these emissions really belong.

Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other. -- Dr Johnson
by melvin (melvingladys at or near yahoo.com) on Wed Oct 15th, 2008 at 06:22:33 PM EST
Exports or extorts?
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Oct 15th, 2008 at 06:36:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmm. I meant to say exports.

Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other. -- Dr Johnson
by melvin (melvingladys at or near yahoo.com) on Wed Oct 15th, 2008 at 06:49:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In 2006, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion were estimated at nearly 6.5 billion tons. If 7000 lb/CO2/ac/year sequestration rate was achieved on all 434 million acres of cropland in the United States, nearly 1.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide would be sequestered per year, mitigating close to one quarter of the country's total fossil fuel emissions.
So when fossil fuel prices resume their upward march farmers could switch to organic practices and obtain higher profit margins while mitigating their own carbon footprint and a substantial amount of the footprint currently caused by cars.  Now if we could only figure out how the chemical and argi-business industries could quickly and profitably transition....Sorta like getting the GWB Admin. to pursue alternative energy proposals?  Perhaps easier with Obama in the White House.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Oct 16th, 2008 at 04:36:11 PM EST
perfect, i pulled up the home page to see if the OT had started yet, or go the the salon to post this, and this diary is even better!

BBC NEWS | Europe | Italy aims for carbon-neutral farm

An attempt to create a pioneering carbon-neutral farm is starting in Italy.

A range of new technologies is being installed at the farm in the central region of Umbria as part of an experiment to cut its CO2 emissions to zero over the course of the next year.

They include everything from electric farm vehicles to sun-reflecting paint on storage buildings.

It is all taking place at the Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio olive oil farm, north of Rome.

With its vineyards and olive trees, this beautiful corner of Italy might look like it has escaped the intrusions of climate change, but the farm's owners say they, too, have to play their part in making the world greener.

"We want to go further than anyone else," says Lorenzo Fasola Bologna, Monte Vibiano's chief executive.

Storing solar energy

One of the key investments is in a unique solar powered battery re-charging centre.

The farm has 24 hi-tech solar panels

Built by the Austrian company Cellstrom, the centre is a shed-sized box with 24 solar panels on it that houses a revolutionary liquid-based battery.

i think i may have to go check this place out, it's less than 2 hrs drive away.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 09:28:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
a revolutionary liquid-based battery.
I recall a post regarding a liquid based battery involving a vandium electrolyte can be cycled between tri-valent and penta-valent states and that can be pumped into storage tanks.  I recall that it was the result of work by a chemist now residing in Australia.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 10:27:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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