Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Soil carbon furphies in The Land

The following ‘facts’ that appeared in The Land recently are false or misleading:

Furphy: The average NZ dairy farmer’s returns will be reduced by 160% because the NZ government entered Kyoto. Fact: The truth is that no NZ dairy farmer’s returns will be reduced by 160% because the NZ Ministry if Agriculture’s figures are the worst case scenario with no allowance for adaptation or mitigation. (Ie. they assume the dairy farmer makes no changes to his operation. The main source of emissions for a dairy is methane. Research reveals simply adding flaxseed oil to the diet reduces methane emissions 20%. Other solutions are in the pipeline.)

Furphy: The Emissions Trading Scheme will damage farm businesses more than the impact of climate change itself, because of a 30% increase in costs. Fact: Mick Keogh of the Australian Farm Institute estimates that Australian agricultural output is projected to continue to grow strongly over the next forty years, with the gross value of annual farm output estimated to virtually double by 2050 despite the projected impact of climate change.

Furphy: An ETS would see farming exported to developing nations. Fact: Population explosion, food shortages, substitution of biofuel crops for food crops, and the shift to animal protein in new consumer markets has created a crisis. Recent food riots in 10 locations reveals the reality of the in ability of developing nations to feed themselves, let alone steal our markets.

Furphy: Wool has the ability to become a carbon sink. Fact: The use of harvested timber in construction is not acceptable to the Kyoto Principles. Even the use of forest trees as offsets is not acceptable to European nations. Wool fails several Kyoto tests, including additionality and permanence. Analysis of the potential value of a flock’s wool (18,000 DSE) by Dr Richard Eckhard found the contribution of wool was minimal (20 tonnes CO2e out of 2500t/CO2e).

Furphy: Tree plantations covering 10% of the average farm would offset emissions from livestock. Fact: Trees must hold their carbon for 100 years. They do not sequester significant amounts for the first 5 to 10 years and they cease sequestering at around 50-60 years. According to a calculator developed by Dr Richard Eckard, a plantation covering 10% of a 2000ha sheep/grain property would contribute around 1100 tonnes CO2e to paying a Methane bill of 2500 tonnes.

Furphy: Researchers proved that heavier soils cannot build soil carbon, even under a heavy superphosphate regime. Fact: The researchers proved only that they couldn’t grow soil carbon. Soil carbon will not respond to heavy super and annuals. “Carbon farmers” would choose deep-rooted perennials, encouraged by pasture cropping, grazed periodically, the root pulsing feeding a complete micro-biological community.

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