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Sustainable Food Guide
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 Soil Information....

According to the EU Climate Change Programme (pdf), agricultural soils (of EU -15) there is the potential to sequester up to 60-70 Mt CO2 y-1 which is equivalent to 1.5-1.7 % of the EU's 'anthropogenic' CO2 emissions. This amount makes up 19-21% of the total reduction of 337 Mt CO2 y-1 to which the EU is committed. If there is such a potential, why isn't UK agriculture paid to sequestrate carbon on behalf of the rest of industry?

By far the greatest mitigation of CO2 contribution from agriculture could be made by soil carbon sequestration (5.34 Pg CO2-eq yr-1) according to "Cool Farming". New DEFRA Study ('08) reviews what extent reduced tillage practices and organic matter returns will increase the carbon content of arable soils under English and Welsh conditions, but is not hopeful. That may be because tillage should be compared with forest to see much difference..

FAO Low Greenhouse Gas Agriculture (pdf) "examines current farming practices and incorporates scientific databases from long-term field experiments as case studies for low GHG Agriculture." Environment for Development in its study Benefits of Organic Study as a Climate Change Adaptation says "Organic agriculture, as an adaptation strategy to climate change and variability, is a concrete and promising option for rural communities and has additional potential as a mitigation strategy".

However, we need to consider not just the small percentage of organic land, but to investigate the other 90%. A major factor in decreasing carbon in the soil could be the increased use of herbicides, which - do as the name says on the tin, kill weeds. This may be an important loss in carbon capture not yet properly recognised

Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Accounting examine 'how soil carbon content is generally decreasing, mostly due to human activities such as land clearing and agriculture'. Other Australian work shows that sequestering carbon in the soil as part of an Emissions Trading Scheme is not likely to prove very useful - see Pannell discussion.

There are no UK SD Headline indicators for carbon in the soil. Why not? UK SD Indicators for Agriculture 2010


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