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Capturing Carbon: The Latest Agricultural Trend

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Capturing Carbon: The Latest Agricultural Trend

The future of agriculture is taking interesting turns. Futurists predict the possibility of paying farmers to grow green crops in order to remove carbon dioxide (C02) from the atmosphere. Almost any crops will d.

The future of agriculture is taking interesting turns. Futurists predict the possibility of paying farmers to grow green crops in order to remove carbon dioxide (C02) from the atmosphere. Almost any crops will do.

"It will be worth more than your whole farm," New Mexico University economist Dr Lowell Catlett told the Ontario Soybean Growers’ Marketing Board annual meeting.

The burning of fossil fuels, coupled with the removal of vast tracts of old-growth forest around the world, is releasing tremendous amounts of C02 into the atmosphere. That C02 acts like a greenhouse cover over the earth, allowing short waves of sunlight in, but trapping the re-radiated long waves of heat. The result is a warmer global climate.

Opinions differ widely about the consequences of this so-called "greenhouse effect." However, most scientists agree that it will lead to an increase in global temperatures. Depending on the timing and the extent of the warming, it could alter the world’s weather patterns and even cause disastrous flooding in highly populated coastal areas. Governments are discussing international agreements that limit each country’s C02 output.

Under a 1997 accord, Canada has committed to reducing greenhouses gases over the next 12 years by six per cent from 1990 levels. This will require industry, especially power-generating plants, to invest in expensive C02 removal technology.

The scenario envisioned by Dr Catlett and others includes paying farmers to follow practices that increase that carbon uptake and storage. This is called "carbon sequestering." It involves storing the carbon taken up by plants either above or below the ground in the form of litter, roots and other organic materials. Practices like no-till, establishing perennial forage crops and pastures would lock up C02, while plowing speeds decomposition of organic matter and releases C02 back into the atmosphere.
Manitoba Co-operator, January 13, 2000

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