Mitigating global warming on a more local scale should be a big incentive for countries to back large plantations, Wulfmeyer said: "The technology is there to do this, but it needs some enthusiasm and some idealism and some more knowledge in the countries before it can be realized."
Barbados nut a disappointment in the past
The cost of carbon farming is comparable to the costs associated with other carbon capture and storage technologies, the study asserts.
The researchers calculated that the total cost for a plantation would be between €42 and €63 per ton of carbon, or between about $55 and $85. The estimated cost of carbon capture technology varies widely, but the nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions pegs it between $36 and $81, depending on the emissions source.
Wulfmeyer stressed that carbon farming could have "fantastic value for the local people" if international carbon markets pick up, promoting rural development and opening up the possibility of additional agriculture as the soil quality improves around the plantation.
Becker said he aims to partner with governments or private companies and create a pilot farm to test the feasibility of their study. But he is already optimistic about the results. He stressed the simplicity of the idea, saying the risk of carbon leakage, as with other carbon capture technologies, is not an issue with carbon farming.
"The sequestration of carbon dioxide by plants is simple," he said. "It has been proven sustainable over hundreds of millions of years, so why aren't we using this technique?"
Becker's question may be answered by earlier disappointments with Barbados nut farms in Africa, said Meine van Noordwijk, chief science adviser for the World Agroforestry Center in Bogor, Indonesia.
In an email, van Noordwijk questioned the growth rate and the atmospheric carbon capture rate hypothesized by the study's authors, calling the estimated carbon price of the plantations a "substantial underestimate."
"We're not talking about trees that create substantive, high-density woody biomass, but about a plant with a shrubby growth habit and a long track record of deceiving farmers with yield potentials that are not being realized," he said.
Also, van Noordwijk said, "even with the abundance of water, the nutrient storage in sandy desert soil is low, and bringing in the nutrient supply to support high growth rates has high energy costs if nitrogenous fertilizer is used."
He added, "The estimated carbon price of this option ... already indicates that there are far better opportunities for reducing ongoing emissions from peatland use and deforestation."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500