Improved food storage boosts the supply and reduces emissions
Efforts to increase food production are clashing with efforts to reduce agriculture's greenhouse gas emissions says a group of international scientists.
Agricultural research to improve food security often depends on technology to increase yields and crop intensification -- resulting in greenhouse gas emissions that damage the environment and help increase climate change, scientists belonging to an independent commission have said.
At the same time, other research projects are working to reduce agriculture's harmful gas emissions.
Agricultural production, particularly intensive agriculture, accounts for almost a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions in some countries. Yet major agricultural research projects in Africa for example, still focus on solutions that produce high levels of greenhouse gases, members of the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, an initiative of the global research funding partnership, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research said this week (16 November).
Members of the commission were speaking after the launch of their summary report, 'Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change', which precedes a full report to be released next year. They hope their recommendations will feed into the build-up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) to be held in Brazil next June.
Intensification of food production must be accompanied by concerted action to reduce emissions from agricultural production to avoid accelerating climate change and threatening the long term viability of global agriculture, they said.
Judi Wakhungu, commission member and executive director of the African Centre for Technology Studies in Kenya said: "We need to integrate food security and sustainable agriculture into global and national policies".
Neither COP17, the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which meets in Durban, South Africa from 28 November, nor the work within the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are tackling the issue of sustainable agriculture intensification and its links to climate change, the commission members said.
Science needs to be more interdisciplinary if it is to tackle the two problems together.
"What we'd like the big agricultural research projects to do is to be much more diverse in terms of techniques employed," said Wakhungu.
"There are many ways of increasing yields sustainably, as well as delivering climate benefits. For example, techniques such as Integrated Crop Management (ICM) help farmers adapt to climate change and resource scarcity using alternative wetting and drying and balanced fertilisation which lowers methane and nitrous dioxide, therefore reducing the amount of fertiliser used."
And agroforestry techniques allow food production to occur under a full canopy of trees which restores exhausted soils with richer sources of nutrients and increases yields.
Another Commission member, Megan Clark, chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia said: "We can improve root systems to be much more efficient in taking up what is applied in the soil so that smaller amounts of fertiliser can be applied directly to the plant."
But she added that more efficient use of resources is also an important approach. Around a third of food produced for human consumption is wasted through inadequate storage, infrastructure or through farming and processing practices.
The Commission said better 'real-time' information on land use, markets and populations needs to accompany research into climate resilient crops and increased yields.
erich ( United States of America )
22 November 2011
All three of these "birds"; Intensification, food security and reduced greenhouse gases are achieved with the "one stone" solution of Biochar systems.
What we can do now with "off the shelf" technology, what I proposed at the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, to the EPA chiefs of North America. The most cited soil scientist in the world, Dr. Rattan Lal at OSU, was impressed with this talk, commending me on conceptualizing & articulating the concept.
Bellow the opening & closing text. A Report on my talk at CEC, and complete text & links are here:
The Establishment of Soil Carbon as the Universal Measure of Sustainability
The Paleoclimate Record shows agricultural-geo-engineering is responsible for 2/3rds of our excess greenhouse gases. The unintended consequence, the flowering of our civilization. Our science has now realized these consequences and has developed a more encompassing wisdom. Wise land management, afforestation and the thermal conversion of biomass can build back our soil carbon. Pyrolysis, Gasification and Hydro-Thermal Carbonization are known biofuel technologies, What is new are the concomitant benefits of biochars for Soil Carbon Sequestration; building soil biodiversity & nitrogen efficiency, for in situ remediation of toxic agents, and, as a feed supplement cutting the carbon foot print of livestock. Modern systems are closed-loop with no significant emissions. The general life cycle analysis is: every 1 ton of biomass yields 1/3 ton Biochar equal to 1 ton CO2e, plus biofuels equal to 1MWh exported electricity, so each energy cycle is 1/3 carbon negative.
Beyond Rectifying the Carbon Cycle; Biochar systems Integrate nutrient management, serving the same healing function for the Nitrogen and Phosphorous Cycles. The Agricultural Soil Carbon Sequestration Standards are the royal road for the GHG Mitigation.
JK ( United Kingdom )
29 November 2011
A critical aspect of this debate is the distinction between aggregate and per unit impacts.
However we eventually manage GHG emissions etc. the decision making framework must take this distinction into account. A failure to do so leads to confusion and unnecessary debate.
Acknowlegement of the distinction allows us to re-cast the question of "conflict" into one of accounting and clearer policy making - production intensity and food security are two sides of the same coin.
Intensification coupled to per unit efficiency and reducing GHGs enables us to tackle food security. On the other hand, aggregating emissions allows us to tackle climate change. An accounting system that does both of these things enables us to generate policy decisions which can sensibly take them both into consideration.
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