Digging deeper on agriculture's carbon capture potential


We know that agriculture plays an important role in both greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration; however Dr. Joy Agnew of Olds College of Agriculture and Technology says we are missing half the picture when it comes to measuring agriculture’s overall carbon footprint.

“There’s the emissions side, which everyone seems to be talking about and worried about. There’s also the carbon uptake or sequestration, that is happening annually and seasonally within ag,” explains Agnew. “And that number also needs to be well understood.”

In a recent talk at AgSmart, held at the college, Agnew explained that while we have good data on emissions from agriculture, we lack reliable methods for quantifying the carbon that the soil sequesters. Without understanding sequestration levels, it’s impossible to accurately calculate a “net” footprint and track progress towards goals, such as Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to get Canada to net-zero by 2050.

We also know that many of the practices we are adopting into farming have dual benefits — not only for the environment, but for the overall bottom line as well.

Variable rate fertilizer applications are one of these practices, but as Agnew notes, adoption of these practices remains a challenge due to the diversity of Canadian agriculture, and the need for region-specific return on investment data.

So, how do we increase adoption? Incentive programs have had mixed results driving adoption in the past — so that may not be the answer necessarily, either.

“There’s many different factors that drive adoption — or actually hinder adoption, is probably the easier way to say that, because of the various surveys and the way the data has been collected. But it’s primarily price point, or return on investment. There has to be a positive impact on the bottom line to the farm, and there has to be some assurance that it’s going to work for them on their farm,” she explains.

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