In this file:
∑ Farmers look to capture carbon as warnings of climate shocks grow louder
∑ A North Carolina farmer sees the climate changing
Farmers look to capture carbon as warnings of climate shocks grow louder
Ian Bickis, The Canadian Press
via CTV News - August 11, 2019
Canadian farmers are cultivating some sustainable farming techniques that the United Nations' latest climate change report identified as particularly useful for an industry it concluded must make drastic changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report last week warning that global food supplies are at risk from climate change and land degradation.
One major conclusion was that the agricultural sector needs to rethink traditional practices, including producing less meat and more plants --which require less room to grow and produce fewer emissions -- otherwise Canada will not be spared from the global impacts of food shortages and price shocks if temperatures continue to rise.
Along with setting out the potentially dire consequences of inaction, the report also outlined some of the techniques that could both reduce emissions and reverse the trend.
One of the most decisively helpful options was to increase the organic content in soil, by using the land to capture carbon -- a practice an increasing number of Canadian farmers employ using a variety of techniques.
Crop farmers have been working to capture carbon, which helps not just on the climate front but also for the sustainability and resilience of the soil, said David Burton, a professor in Dalhousie University's department of plant, food and environmental sciences.
"It's a rare example of one of the mitigation options that has really, really big positive advantages beyond greenhouse gas mitigation."
Decades of intensity farming have started to push down the organic matter in soil that helps keep it healthy and fertile and prevents erosion, he noted.
"We're realizing we can't just push this thing to the max all the time, we're going to have to start thinking about the condition of the soil."
A key technique for farmers is to no longer till the soil, so the organic matter isn't disturbed and can properly break down.
"That's how soil organic matter forms, by leaving it alone," said Burton.
No-tillage seeding has grown significantly in the past two decades, from use in less than seven per cent of cropland in 1991 to 56 per cent in 2011.
Manitoba farmer Wes Pankratz started using no-till many years ago and hasn't looked back, though he said at the time there was a lot of skepticism about it.
He's now trying to adopt some regenerative techniques that capture more carbon in the soil, such as growing a non-cash crop simply to add organic matter to the soil.
Farmers using the technique often plant the non-cash crop after the fall harvest, but Pankratz said that a shorter growing season has led him to plant his in the spring, in amongst his wheat crop, hoping it will continue to grow after the harvest.
"If you can build up the soil organic matter, your soil will be healthier, you can maybe grow a reasonable crop with a lot less inputs, which is good for the bank account as well as the environment."
Pankratz said it's still early days for him, but hopes he can make it work...
A North Carolina farmer sees the climate changing
By Tandy Jones, The News & Observer (NC)
August 12, 2019
I have lived and farmed in Chatham County for 36 years and come from a continuous line of farming families. With that background, Iíve always known that a farmerís livelihood is susceptible to the weather, thatís nothing new. What is new, over the last few years, is a collection of rapidly-increasing changes on my farm that I believe are attributable to changes in the climate.
Increased incidence of heavy rainfall is perhaps the most significant factor impacting my farm. The NOAA data shows a pattern of increasingly frequent and more intense storms impacting the Southeastern United States. These hurricanes and strong storms arenít just a coastal problem. They cause flooding far inland, and Iíve seen it first hand at my Chatham County farm. The increased storms and flooding have resulted in erosion and the creation of gulleys in the last few years, even in properly grazed permanent pastures. During the first 30 or so years on my farm, I documented only one occurrence of five inches or more of rainfall happening in roughly a 24-hour timeframe, and that was during Hurricane Fran. In just the past three years, Iíve documented six such occurrences. This is a tangible, noticeable change.
This past year there was so much rainfall that the ground was saturated from September to May. Iíve never seen this kind of prolonged ground saturation in this part of North Carolina before. Even with an operation as resilient and flexible as pasture-based beef cattle, this presents substantial and expensive management challenges. Grazing wet pastures can ruin the crop and confining cattle in muddy conditions can result in disease and injury. If the heavy rainfall continues and prolonged ground saturation becomes a recurrent issue, it is simply not possible to have a profitable business.
In addition to the rainfall, weíre experiencing record high temperatures. According to data from NOAA over the last 140 years, June 2019 was the hottest on record globally. This pattern of heat appears to be extending for longer time periods each year. The warmer summer temperatures have a number of consequences that I have to mitigate on my farm, including negative impacts on animal health and reproduction.
One of the effects that appears to be correlated with the increasing heat and moisture is the dramatic increase of the tick population. The prevalence of ticks impacts my ability to work on the farm. Knowing the potential risks of tick-borne diseases,I try to minimize time working in tall grass or brush between March and November. Ticks can also transmit diseases to the cattle.
When the ambient temperature rises, so does the temperature of the soil...