Management options for climate change
New Scientist reports that Brazil, contrary to all expectations, is “now bidding to go from the bad boy forestry and agriculture to their poster child”. Brazilian researchers have developed a low-carbon agriculture plan that is expected to cut emissions by 170 millions tonnes a year.
Most remarkably, EMBRAPA researcher Gustavo Mozzer claimed cattle ranching, the number one destroyer of the Amazon rainforest, would become a national carbon sink, reabsorbing CO2 from the air. Currently, most pastures lose carbon as soils degrade, he said. But “a well-managed pasture can accumulate carbon. In fact our research shows it can accumulate so much that it more than cancels out the warming effect of methane and other emissions from cattle production”.
Engineered nitrogen bugs:
Mozzer, an architect of Brazil’s climate policies for almost two decades, says Brazil plans to rehabilitate 150,000 square kilometres of degraded pastures by 2020, restoring its carbon content. One method will be to plant trees and other crops among the cattle.
Another big project is to extend no-till farming, which Brazil has pioneered. Ploughing releases carbon from soils. But if farmers avoid the plough and instead plant seeds in holes drilled among the stubble of the previous year’s crop, the typical carbon content of the soil rises from 1.6 to 2 per cent over a decade, Mozzer said. The technique, which is already used in 60,000 square kilometres of Brazilian farmland, is to be extend to another 80,000 square kilometres in the coming decade.