Credits and Costs: Understanding the Carbon Balance of Annual Cropping

If farmers are going to pay a tax on carbon emissions, they should also receive credit for the carbon their farms remove from the atmosphere.

Many in the farm community are trying to make that case, as the federal and provincial governments roll out pricing systems that appear to lean on the cost side of the equation.

In making that argument, there are some of the big questions that need answering: how much credit should farms be getting? How do emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane compare with sequestration rates?

Mario Tenuta

Mario Tenuta, soil ecologist in the agriculture faculty at the University of Manitoba, has been studying greenhouse gases in agriculture for many years.

As he explains in the interview below, while crops do sequester CO2, that carbon is eventually released as plants decay and grain is consumed. It’s fundamental changes in practices, such as shifting to zero-till or seeding annual crop land to forages, that enable more carbon to be stored in the soil.

We sat down with Tenuta at St. Jean Farm Days earlier this month to discuss (as heard on RealAg Radio on Rural Radio Channel 147 on SiriusXM):

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