5 ways farmers can manage carbon

5 ways farmers can manage carbon
Mulch over a field.

By Haldimand Press Staff

Agriculture contributes significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions. However, the development of sustainable farming techniques may allow farmers to reduce emissions and even capture carbon dioxide in plants and soil. Here are five ways to improve carbon retention.

  1. No-till farming

While tilling aerates soil, it also releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. No-till farming can dramatically reduce these emissions. Studies indicate that no-till reduces emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, by as much as 70%.

  1. Apply mulch

Covering the soil of small planting areas with straw or wood-chip mulch helps increase carbon sequestration. For large fields, leaving crop residue in place as mulch is ideal. As it decomposes, the residue replenishes the soil and helps it hold on to more carbon.

  1. Plant cover crops

Fast-growing cover crops such as clover and alfalfa are a carbon trap. If combined with no-till farming, mulching and composting, planting cover crops dramatically increases carbon concentration in the soil. When planted alongside cash crops, they prevent the soil from losing all of its carbon at harvest time.

  1. Use compost

The carbon contained in compost is in a form that isn’t easily oxidized. This means it doesn’t need to be tilled into the soil and can simply be sprinkled on the surface. Compost helps replenish nutrients in the soil and, when used with cover crops, increases carbon content instead of depleting it.

  1. Rotate grazing areas

Instead of grazing cattle in the same location, rotating pastures allows the soil to retain more carbon. This is because overgrazing slows down new growth and strips the soil of the plants that would otherwise help it hold on to carbon.

Carbon farming is likely to become more popular, and implementing the practices above is a good step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions produced by the agriculture industry.

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