Soil Carbon Conference all about the soil and not full of Bullshit.


Soil Carbon Conference all about the soil and not full of Bullshit

In what can only be described as a unique coming together of interested parties from diverse backgrounds the first soil carbon conference took place in Napier Last week.

This diverse group included farmers from Aussie and NZ, leaders in Carbon farming management from Canada, NIWA scientists, waste management experts, climate change and environmental managers along with researchers into soil management just to name a few.

The conference was organised by Nicole Masters of Integrity soils with the purpose of highlighting soil carbon sequestration and reduction of greenhouse gas CO2 from the atmosphere.

At first the main driver of this seemed to be the government’s non recognition of soil to sequester carbon and reduce green house gases. In the Kyoto protocol there is no recognition of soil carbon and yet as many of the speakers pointed out, it is already recognised as the major holder of carbon anywhere on earth.

On further inspection this was certainly not the case. Conventional thinking is that agricultural practices leave the soil carbon in a steady state and cannot be modified. This conventional thinking whether intentional or not took a hammering as speaker after speaker spoke of the ability to utilise resources on the land whether that was waste management or dairy farming to increase carbon in the soil.

All had excellent evidence that soil carbon is being increased when the soils are managed well. Most of the production based speakers (farmers, horticulturalists) had stopped using chemicals and chemical fertilisers in their quest to enhance the productive capacity of their soils and what was even more prevalent was that this was without a major drop off in production.

In many cases production had actually risen as well as the quality of product produced from these ventures.

What was also very evident was that in nearly all cases the speakers talked about making rational decisions to enhance their farming business. The practices had reduced costs, work load and increased profits before they even looked at how much carbon was being sequested, even though the evidence was very plain to see that the extra carbon in humus form can increase water holding capacity and nutrient availability of soils.

Other major talking points from this was the interest from consumers in product quality, food miles and the total carbon foot print which can only enhance our international reputation as we continue down this track...
Speakers were able to elaborate on the ability to actually calculate the amount of carbon in the soil and properly audit these systems to be able to access the markets with confidence that they had the evidence of carbon sequestration. These test included physical, photographic and satellite imagery.

The evidence put forward certainly put a great case up for carbon farming as a result of good farming practice and would help make the farms more profitable and the environment better off.

Government seems dead in the water on this one at the present as it looks to take advice from the traditional farming and research authorities who believe at best our carbon is stable and that our cows and sheep emit copious amounts of nitrous oxide and methane. And at worst our soil carbon levels are falling leaving the country in huge deficit on the Kyoto protocol.

And whether you believe in Global Warming or not what was spoken about and what is actually being done in the private sector certainly will go along way to healthier food production and a healthier environment.

In the end the proof will be in the pudding and it already looks well on its way to the dinner table. There certainly is no lack of enthusiastic well educated people to actually get this to work and it won’t be for the lack of trying.
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