OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 23, 2010) - Today, the Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment, announced that the Government of Canada is delivering on its commitment under the Copenhagen Accord to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries with their efforts to fight climate change. As promised as part of the Copenhagen Accord, Canada will invest $400 million for international climate change efforts this fiscal year. This represents the 2010 portion of Canada's fair share of the fast-start financing promised by developed countries under the Copenhagen Accord.
"This is an important announcement for Canada and for the global community," said Minister Prentice. "Through this investment, we are working to help developing countries reduce their emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change. As countries begin to follow through on their commitments made in Copenhagen last December, Canada will continue to provide its fair share of the support promised".
Under the Copenhagen Accord, developed countries committed to provide fast-start financing approaching US$30 billion for 2010-2012 that would help the poorest and most vulnerable countries adapt to the effects of climate change, including clean energy development and delivery, efforts to address deforestation and to enhance sustainable agriculture. Canada's contribution is consistent with our traditional share of developed country donor pledges in the context of multilateral international assistance efforts—approximately 4%.
The Government of Canada is continuing to deliver strong action on the environment both domestically and internationally. As inscribed in the Copenhagen Accord, Canada has set an ambitious, realistic target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020, a target which reflects the importance of aligning with the United States.
The Government has recently published draft regulations for regulating greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, and will continue to work with the United States to do the same for heavy trucks. Furthermore, we have tabled new regulations requiring renewable content for gasoline and diesel fuel. Starting in September 2010, gasoline will be required to contain five per cent renewable content.
At the G8 summit this past weekend, leaders renewed their commitment to food security. They stood by their pledge to spend (US) $22b for sustainable agriculture by 2012.
The commitment was made last year at the L’Aquila summit in Italy. So far, about $6 billion has been allocated.
Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda is CEO of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), a member of the Farming First coalition. Farming First represents about 130 organizations worldwide.
“We are quite delighted that there was time spent on deliberating and linking to the L’Aquila agreement,” says Sibanda, speaking from Pretoria, South Africa. “And the good thing is that at least our world leaders have agreed that accountability is the way forward. And the Muskoka framework is a big step forward.”
The framework makes the G8 process more transparent
“For once we know what is discussed behind closed doors,” she says, “And they’ve made a commitment that by 2011 there will be a report back on food security and health, which is excellent, child health.”
The farming community around the world is pleased with the L’Aquila recommitment, according to Sibanda.
“In the past we’ve had figures that are floated and there is no follow-up. So for us, the fact that we now have a framework that talks about the initial commitment of $22 billion – the fact that to date only $6.5 billion has been disbursed – and the commitment that by 2012 the balance will be delivered – I think it gives us something to hold onto,” she says.
No-till fields store carbon in the form of soil organic matter, which can be sold by farmers, providing them with an additional source of income.
As the United States looks to become more green, a program to trade carbon credits from farmland could play a role.
When carbon is emitted into the atmosphere, by vehicles or other means, it can be absorbed and stored by trees and other plants and may eventually wind up in the soil as organic matter.
No-till fields store carbon in the form of soil organic matter, which can be sold by farmers, providing them with an additional source of income.
“Carbon credits are currently a voluntary method used by organizations that want to offset their carbon emissions,” said Lenny Farlee, Purdue University Extension forestry specialist. “But it also creates an opportunity for farmers that may have no-till fields or landowners who replant forest trees.”
Carbon offset credits are sold through the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), which operates like a stock exchange. Offsets typically come from agriculture methane capture, no-till farming, grasslands and planting trees.
The CCX will accept a minimum of 100 tons of carbon at a time. Most landowners sell credits through an aggregator, comparable to a stock broker, who will combine multiple landowners’ credits together.
“An aggregator will lump several accounts together until it reaches 100 tons or more and sell the carbon to the CCX,” Farlee said. “This is really the easiest solution for farmers and landowners, because some people do not own enough land to sell 100 tons of carbon, and the aggregator can handle most of the administrative work associated with selling the credits.”
Carbon from grasslands and no-till farming is sold to the CCX at a fixed rate per acre. Carbon from trees also is sold at a fixed rate based on tree species, age of the planting and region.
As the voluntary program becomes more popular, the federal government is debating whether to make reduction of carbon emissions a mandatory system.
‘There have been legislative proposals in place for about a year,” Farlee said. “Part of the debate is over making the carbon emissions reduction system a carbon tax or a market-based offset and reduction system or whether to have a mandatory reduction system at all.”
Under a carbon tax, emitters might be charged based on emission rates above some established threshold. If an offset market system is used, those entities emitting carbon could be allowed to buy and sell carbon offset credits based on their carbon emission reductions and offset credits to meet a required total emissions target.
“Europe has installed a mandatory carbon reduction and offset system, and the price per ton of carbon offset credits has been between $20 and $35 a ton,” Farlee said. “It is hard to predict what the future will bring here in the United States in terms of legislation related to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”
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ST. LOUIS—New research from the United Soybean Board (USB) shows nearly 70 percent of U.S. consumers consider sustainability when choosing food products at the grocery store. What’s more, 78 percent of consumers consider the sustainability of farm-produced ingredients when buying products on the supermarket shelf.
According to an independent quantitative study conducted by USB U.S. consumers believe sustainability is a way of raising food that is healthy for consumers and animals, does not harm the environment, is humane for workers, provides a fair wage to the farmer, and supports and enhances rural communities.
In the USB study, 72 percent of participants agree U.S. soybean farming is sustainable. Asked what country leads in sustainable farming, respondents rate the U.S. significantly highest at 44.8 percent, followed by Canada (21 percent) and Brazil (8.2 percent).
Less pesticide spraying on crops, better soil health and improved water quality are the top attributes reported among consumers for what makes a farm sustainable. U.S. soybean growers have been committed for many years to using sustainable production methods to meet the needs of the present and future generations, while being stewards of the environment.
Lewis Bainbridge, a USB Director from South Dakota, comments, “The biggest thing we can do for the environment is practice no-till farming, which means not having to turn or plow the land, and thus leaving the soil intact and reducing runoff into streams and waterways. Advances made through biotechnology have produced the soybean varieties that allow us to perform this important conservation practice.”
Soybean conservation tillage, used on more than 65 percent of U.S. soybean acres, has resulted in a 93 percent decrease in soil erosion, 70 percent reduction in herbicide run-off, 50 percent reduction in fuel use and 326 million pounds of reduced CO2 emission – equivalent to 6.3 million cars off of the road. The latest soybean varieties reduce the need for pesticides/herbicides.
The global population is rising – it’s expected to top eight billion by 2030.
As a result, demand for everyday essentials is soaring, too.
No doubt you’ve heard the debate about how the world is striving to find adequate energy resources and beefing up aging infrastructures in order to handle the strain.
But what about items that are even more critical to basic human survival – namely, food and water?
I’ve discussed the world’s water issues here before. Today, we turn to the food industry. Because like water, with an additional two billion people on the planet in 20 years, we’re going to have to come up with ways to satisfy all the extra demand.
Longing for more land
The trouble is, there simply isn’t enough arable land available to grow all the extra crops necessary. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the world needs as much additional arable land as there already is in the United States, Brazil and Argentina.
Adding to the crunch is the ongoing mandate for biofuel production across the world. We all know about the frenzy for mass-produced ethanol from corn a few years ago.
With subsidies tossed around like confetti to farmers who planted more corn for ethanol production, the rush caused a trio of problems…
And although the fervor has died down from the giddy “this is the fuel of the future… let’s kick up production to warp speed” days a few years ago, one-quarter of the U.S. corn crop still goes towards ethanol production.
- It took massive amounts of corn out of the food production chain.
- It left less acreage for other crops like soybeans and wheat.
- The focus on biofuel production at the expense of food sent food prices soaring.
And now, emerging market nations are expected to take the food production baton in a big way…
Boom in the BRICs
Along with its fellow “BRIC” nations (Russia, India and China), Brazil is among the nations expected to “provide the main source of growth for world agricultural production, consumption and trade,” according to the annual Agricultural Outlook report from the United Nations and Organization for Cooperation and Development.
More specifically, the report states that agricultural output in the BRICs will grow by 27% – three times faster than production in major Western European economies. Breaking it down…
Overall, the UN-OECD report estimates that global production will expand by 70% by 2050.
- Brazil leads the pack, with agriculture growth of more than 40% through 2019.
- The three other BRIC nations – Russia, India and China – are forecast to notch up 26%, 21% and 26% growth through 2019.
- The Ukraine is also projected to enjoy an agriculture sector boom, posting 29% growth through 2019.
However, with the population growing and land acreage shrinking, global food prices are set to rise.
While the UN/OECD report doesn’t project a food price spike, it warned that these factors, coupled with higher energy costs, will result in consumers paying more for food.
For example, crop and dairy prices are projected to climb between 16% and 45%. And that doesn’t take into account any rise in energy/commodity prices.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Increase no-till farming practices across the planet or face serious climate, soil quality and food production problems in the next 20 to 50 years. That warning from scientists appeared in the journal Science this week.
No-till farming helps soil retain carbon. Healthy topsoil contains carbon-enriched humus – decaying organic matter that provides nutrients to plants. Soils low in humus can't maintain the carbon-dependent nutrients essential to healthy crop production, resulting in the need to use more fertilizers.
A lack of carbon in soil may promote erosion, as topsoil and fertilizers are often washed or blown away from farm fields and into waterways, said Rattan Lal, the paper's lead author and the director of the carbon management and sequestration center at Ohio State University.
In no-till agriculture, farmers plant seeds without using a plow to turn the soil. Soil loses most of it carbon content during plowing, which releases carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere. Increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have been associated with global climate change.
Traditional plowing, or tilling, turns over the top layer of soil. Farmers use it for, among other reasons, to get rid of weeds, make it easier to use fertilizers and pesticides and to plant crops. Tilling also enriches the soil as it hastens the decomposition of crop residue, weeds and other organic matter.
"If every farmer who grows crops in the United States would use no-till and adopt management practices such as crop rotation and planting cover crops, we could sequester about 300 million tons of soil carbon each year."
Still, the benefits of switching to no-till farming practices outweigh those of traditional planting.
Since the mechanization of agriculture began a few hundred years ago, scientists estimate that some 78 billion metric tons – more than 171 trillion pounds – of carbon once trapped in the soil have been lost to the atmosphere in the form of CO2.
Lal and his colleagues estimate that no-till farming is practiced on only 5 percent of all the world's cultivated cropland. Farmers in the United States use no-till methods on 37 percent of the nation's cropland, which results in saving an estimated 60 million metric tons of soil CO2 annually.
"If every farmer who grows crops in the United States would use no-till and adopt management practices such as crop rotation and planting cover crops, we could sequester about 300 million tons of soil carbon each year," said Lal, who is also a professor of soil science at Ohio State.
"Each year, 6 billion tons of carbon is released into the planet's atmosphere as fossil fuels are burned, and plants can absorb 20 times that amount in that period of time," he said. "The problem is that as organisms decompose and plants breathe, CO2 returns to the atmosphere. None of it accumulates in the soil."
Lal admits that full-scale no-till farming practices are a short-term fix, but it's one that will give researchers enough time to find alternatives to fossil fuels.
"There needs to be a global effort to adopt no-till farming practices soon. Governments need to mandate these practices or to provide financial incentives to farmers to adopt them," said Lal, adding no-till methods may reduce a farmer's annual crop yield by 5 to 10 percent, at least for the first few years.
It's also tough to ask farmers who lack the necessary financial resources to switch to no-till methods, especially in African and Asian countries where no-till levels are the lowest, Lal said.
"No-till isn't readily practiced in most of these areas due to the lack of available financial resources and government support," he said. "Farmers often lack the seeding equipment necessary to drill through crop residue. And many farmers use leftover residue from the previous year's crops for fuel or animal fodder. So the cultivated soil gets compacted or eroded by water and wind."
Topsoil is also a lucrative commodity – an acre of it can bring in $1,300 for a farmer in India, where the first few feet of soil are often removed for brick making.
"No-till farming isn't a substitute for finding alternatives to fossil fuels," Lal said.
"No-till is definitely a short-term fix, but it may buy us up to 50 years to find alternatives to fossil fuels. If we don't heed this warning, our planet may change drastically. There's no other choice."
Lal co-authored the paper with Michael Griffin, Jay Apt, Lester Lave and M. Granger Morgan, all with Carnegie Mellon University.
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Vancouver based Clean Seed Capital is positioned to play a meaningful role in the growth of sustainable agriculture.
Clean Seed Capital’s focus is to identify solution-driven, sustainable, environmentally responsible, agricultural based companies that need a strategic partner to facilitate progress.
Agriculture has changed dramatically, post World War II food and fiber productivity soared due to new technologies, mechanization, increased chemical use, specialization and government policies that favored maximizing production.
Although these changes at the time had some positive effects and reduced many yield risks in farming, there have also been significant costs. Prominent among these are topsoil depletion, groundwater contamination and the release of carbon into our atmosphere due to heavy tilling of the soil.
A growing movement has emerged during the past two decades to question the role of the agricultural establishment in promoting practices that contribute to these social and environmental problems. Today this movement for sustainable agriculture is gaining increasing support and acceptance within mainstream agriculture. Not only does sustainable agriculture address many environmental and social concerns, but it offers innovative and economically viable opportunities for growers and the investment community.
Clean Seed Capital Group provides strategic capital, business advisory services, and marketing strategies that yield both positive impact and significant investor returns from this rapidly growing sector.
“We work in partnership exclusively with companies that can contribute to our vision of a sustainable future in agriculture and that will have a meaningful effect on the current system, we are confident that we are in a space that is emerging as a growth sector for investment and we look forward to working with companies that share our objectives” Said CEO Graeme Lempriere.
A joint Agricultural Research Service (ARS)-multi-university study across the central Great Plains on the effects of more than 19 years of various tillage practices shows that no-till makes soil much more stable than plowed soil. The study was led by Humberto Blanco-Canqui at Kansas State University at Hays, Kan., and Maysoon Mikha at the ARS Central Great Plains Research Station in Akron, Colo. ARS researchers Joe Benjamin and Merle Vigil at Akron were part of the research team that studied four sites across the Great Plains: Akron; Hays and Tribune, Kan., and the University of Nebraska at Sidney.
No-till stores more soil carbon, which helps bind or glue soil particles together, making the first inch of topsoil two to seven times less vulnerable to the destructive force of raindrops than plowed soil.
The structure of these aggregates in the first inch of topsoil is the first line of defense against soil erosion by water or wind. Understanding the resistance of these aggregates to the erosive forces of wind and rain is critical to evaluating soil erodibility. This is especially important in semiarid regions such as the Great Plains, where low precipitation, high evaporation, and yield variability can interact with intensive tillage to alter aggregate properties and soil organic matter content.
Tillage makes soil less resistant to being broken apart by raindrops because the clumping is disrupted and soil organic matter is lost through oxidation when soil particles are exposed to air.
A paper on this research was published in a recent issue of the Soil Science Society of America Journal.
A dramatic jump in the adoption of zero-till farming in NSW reflects increasing recognition of the economic and environmental benefits of such farming systems, according to experts from Industry & Investment NSW.
Zero-tillage has more than doubled between 2001 and 2008, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
The area of land under preparation for cropping or pasture using zero-till methods more than doubled, from 26% in 2000-01 to 57% in 2007-08, figures from the ABS Agricultural Resource Management Survey finalised last year show.
Levels of crop stubble left intact after a crop increased from 18% in 2000-01 to 45% in 2007-08.
Industry & Investment NSW (I&I) has previously estimated the net present value to industry of notill in northern NSW to be $302 million by 2020 and $568 million for no-tillage and reduced tillage combined, says I&I NSW economist, Fiona Scott.
“We have also calculated that in northern NSW, compared to conventional tillage, no-till can increase crop gross margins from $38 to $124 a hectare,” Ms Scott said.
“Case studies of successful adopters show technical constraints to adoption have not been insurmountable, but often required a step-by-step approach.
“Climate change has reinforced the need for farmers to adopt reduced tillage and residue retention cropping practices that preserve soil water and reduce soil temperatures.”
I&I NSW is now modelling response-cropping strategies that reduce the risks associated with climate variability and climate change, under an Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research-funded project known as “Enhancing production and marketing of maize and soybean in north-western Cambodia and production of summer crops in north-eastern Australia”.
The aim is to estimate what changes to the summer cropping system, in terms of planting time and use of varieties of differing maturities, would be best to adapt to expected climate change in the next 50 years and how these changes would fit within the crop rotation system.
Since the 1940s there has been considerable discussion about the best way to enhance high crop yields. The majority of farmers believed tilling was the best method in the constant battle with weeds. They spent hours working the soil, but it seemed their extra time and energy in plowing did not always pay off.
During the ancient times, no-tillage was a way of life because plows had not been invented. Two ancient groups of people, the Egyptians and the Incas of South America simply used a stick to push a hole into the ground put in a seed and cover it by hand. As the years passed, various types of plows were invented to turn the soil, crop residue and weeds leaving the fresh turned soil open to the wind and rain. In 1943, Edward Faulkner wrote a book "Plowman's Folly" to encourage no-tillage. This was the beginning of an awareness that tilling was harmful to the soil.
North Carolina began no-tillage practices in the 1940s. The practice grew slowly through the 1960s, and '70s, extending to Latin America, UK and across the United States. Today, no tillage is widely used in the Americas but is virtually unknown in Africa, Asia and Europe.
No-tillage is the elimination of working the soil before planting the crops. The crop residue is left in the fields over the winter until spring planting. At this time, narrow, shallow trenches are dug the length of the fields in the unprepared soil where the seeds are planted.
Even with crop rotation, farmers who plowed their fields several times during the growing season and one last time in preparation for winter noticed an increasing reduction in crop yields. In researching this phenomenon, it was found that plowing the soil decreased the amount of earth worms and compost and increased soil erosion at an alarming rate.
The purpose of tilling is to eliminate weeds. With the introduction of herbicides, the choking effect of weeds on the crops is greatly reduced. According to Almir Rebelo of Brazil, for every ton of grain they were losing 10 tons of soil per hectare per year.
It was always believed that tilling the soil was necessary to produce high yield crops. With the use of disks, the crop residue was turned under and it was believed this was the only way to eliminate weeds from seeding themselves and killing destructive insect eggs. Soil erosion was just part of the game because farmers thought it was unavoidable.
No-tillage has many great advantages. One of the first advantages is substantial decreased tractor use hours. This decrease in usage saves gas, time and greenhouse gas emissions from the exhaust. No--tillage allows the soil to be more porous increasing water infiltration, preserves the nutrients through the compost of crop residue and greatly reduces soil erosion.
Agriculture is the most important sector for many countries in terms of its potential to influence a wide range of issues that are critically related to sustainable development, including: the economy, employment, food security, trade flows, poverty, human health, climate change, the use of natural resources (especially land and water), and biodiversity.
However, notwithstanding increases in productivity and yields over the past few decades, today the agricultural sector is characterized by: declining rates of growth in productivity (despite receiving subsidies of over US$ 1 billion per day); a decreasing share of global agricultural exports from developing countries; an increase in the use of agrichemicals, resulting in negative impacts on human health, ecosystems, and biodiversity; increasing levels of greenhouse gas emissions; and, the inequitable distribution of benefits among Countries and among different segments of societies within countries.
Around the world, evidence is mounting to suggest that sustainable forms of agricultural production present viable alternatives to existing (and unsustainable) farming practices. More sustainable agricultural systems offer numerous opportunities and benefits, including: competitive economic returns, the supply of essential and life-supporting ecosystem services, the creation of decent jobs and livelihoods, a smaller ecological footprint, increased resilience to climate change, and enhanced food security.
Countries in the EECCA region have a particular comparative advantage in terms of seizing the opportunities offered by sustainable and organic agriculture, given the low level of pesticide and fertiliser use, a significant amount of small farms, and the ready availability of agricultural labour. There are also considerable export opportunities given the close proximity of European Union (EU), one of the biggest and fastest growing markets for organics.