The researchers found that no-till management in combination corn-soybean fields and corn-only fields created a carbon debt lasting 29 and 40 years, respectively. Soil tillage nearly tripled the debt: 89 to 123 years.
No-till farming on the conventional farm can have other environmental consequences. To avoid digging up the soil to remove weeds, farmers spray the herbicide glyphosate, best known as Roundup, in conjunction with glyphosate-resistant crops.
Robertson asserts that no-till methods need not be limited to spraying. Planting perennial, rather than annual, crops could outcompete weeds, removing the need for glyphosate.
Making a case for CRP
At the peak of CRP enrollment in 2007, the program was enabling the sequestration of 50 million metric tons of CO2, said Kent Politsch, chief of public affairs for the Farm Service Agency. In 2010, that figure dropped to 44 million metric tons.
As it stands, farmers who receive payments under the CRP are not allowed to harvest and profit from production on those lands. But alterations to the program are not impossible.
Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced changes in CRP rules to allow drought-stricken farmers to use harvested hay from expiring conservation land. The farmers could use the hay to feed cattle in exchange for a 25 percent reduction in their CRP benefit.
Combining the CRP with the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, another Farm Service Agency endeavor, could combine resources for both energy production and conservation, suggested Politsch.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500