Regenerative Agriculture: Good for Soil Health, but Limited Potential to Mitigate Climate Change

Regenerative Agriculture: Good for Soil Health, but Limited Potential to Mitigate Climate Change

SOURCE: World Resources Institute DATE: May 12, 2020 SNIP: Regenerative agriculture has become the darling of many policymakers, food companies and farmers. Advocates claim a triple win: climate change mitigation, increased profit for farmers and greater resilience to a changing climate. Our view is that the practices grouped as regenerative agriculture can improve soil health and yield some valuable environmental benefits, but are unlikely to achieve large-scale emissions reductions. There is broad agreement that most regenerative agriculture practices are good for soil health and have other environmental benefits. No-till reduces soil erosion and encourages water to infiltrate soils (although it can require greater use of herbicides). Cover crops do the same, and can also reduce water pollution. Diverse crop rotations can lower pesticide use. And good grazing practices — such as moving cattle around frequently, adding legumes or fertilizers, and avoiding overgrazing — can increase vegetation and protect water sources. The thinking behind regenerative practices as a climate mitigation strategy is to remove carbon dioxide out of the air by storing it as organic carbon in soils. While practices like adding manure can increase soil carbon, the feasibility of scaling such practices over large areas to substantially increase soil carbon and mitigate climate change is much less clear. Our own report analyzing mitigation options in the food and land sector concluded that the practical potential was at best modest due to several challenges, including: Uncertain benefits: There’s limited scientific understanding of what keeps soil carbon sequestered, and, as a result, uncertainty about whether regenerative practices actually sequester additional carbon. For example, there is an active scientific debate about whether...
Total Catastrophe For U.S. Corn Production: Only 30% Of U.S. Corn Fields Have Been Planted – 5 Year Average Is 66%

Total Catastrophe For U.S. Corn Production: Only 30% Of U.S. Corn Fields Have Been Planted – 5 Year Average Is 66%

SOURCE: The Economic Collapse Blog [Take with a grain of salt, but the numbers are from the Department of Agriculture and are quite clearly problematic.] DATE: May 15, 2019 SNIP: 2019 is turning out to be a nightmare that never ends for the agriculture industry. Thanks to endless rain and unprecedented flooding, fields all over the middle part of the country are absolutely soaked right now, and this has prevented many farmers from getting their crops in the ground. I knew that this was a problem, but when I heard that only 30 percent of U.S. corn fields had been planted as of Sunday, I had a really hard time believing it. But it turns out that number is 100 percent accurate. And at this point corn farmers are up against a wall because crop insurance final planting dates have either already passed or are coming up very quickly. In addition, for every day after May 15th that corn is not in the ground, farmers lose approximately 2 percent of their yield. Unfortunately, more rain is on the way, and it looks like thousands of corn farmers will not be able to plant corn at all this year. It is no exaggeration to say that what we are facing is a true national catastrophe. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s crop progress reports, about 11% of Illinois corn has been planted and about 4% of soybeans. Last year at this time, 88% of corn and 56% of soybeans were in the ground. Sadly, global weather patterns are continuing to go haywire, and much more rain is coming to...
Study indicates that climate change will wreak havoc on California agriculture

Study indicates that climate change will wreak havoc on California agriculture

SOURCE: LA Times DATE: March 9, 2018 SNIP: The California we know is the breadbasket of the nation, producing more than two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts, including almonds, pistachios, oranges, apricots, nectarines and prunes, and more than a third of its vegetables, including artichokes, broccoli, spinach and carrots. It’s all valued at more than $50 billion a year. You can kiss much of it goodbye because of climate change. The paper, published in the journal Agronomy last month, is the most thorough review of the literature on the regional impact of climate change in recent memory. It makes grim reading. Among the chief manifestations of climate change will be changes in precipitation patterns, leading to more drought and more flooding, and spottier water storage. Generally warmer temperatures, not to mention more frequent and severe heat waves, will reduce yields of wine grapes, strawberries and walnuts; shorter chill seasons will make vast areas no longer suitable for chestnuts, pecans, apricots, kiwis, apples, cherries and pears. Plant diseases and pests will move into regions where they haven’t been a problem...
UN official calls for land preservation to ensure sustainable development

UN official calls for land preservation to ensure sustainable development

SOURCE: XinhuaNet (Chinese Media is notoriously unreliable, so read with a grain of salt). DATE: December 5, 2017 SNIP: The ecosystem services that land provides will have to increase exponentially to sustain the planet, as agricultural production needs to increase by about 70 percent globally to feed the expected population of 9 billion in 2050. That would mean finding an estimated 6 million hectares of land for agricultural production annually and twice the amount of water by 2050. The painful fact is that soil degradation is increasing rapidly in spite of fast growing demand, with a quarter of the world’s land highly degraded…more than half of all agricultural land has already degraded. The problem could lead to the loss of two thirds of all arable land by 2025, plunging millions of farmers into poverty and igniting conflicts and migration, according to the...
Global Warming Could Make This Lurking Climate Threat Even Worse

Global Warming Could Make This Lurking Climate Threat Even Worse

SOURCE: Forbes DATE: October 17, 2017 SNIP: A years-long study of Minnesota farm fields has found that emissions of nitrous oxide—a more dangerous greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide—will likely increase as our planet gets warmer. And our climate models aren’t ready. Like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide (yes, the same stuff as laughing gas) traps heat in Earth’s atmosphere. Although it’s thought to account for only about 6% of the greenhouse effect today, it is about 300 times worse for the climate than CO2. One major source is runoff from farms and fields. Bacteria breaking down nitrogen compounds from manure and synthetic fertilizers generate nitrous oxide as a waste product. “There’s a lot of uncertainty about how nitrous oxide is going to respond to changing temperature and moisture levels,” says David Kanter, a professor of environmental studies at New York University who has studied nitrogen pollution. He was not involved in the new research. The answer appears to be...