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Cows, Rice and Soil are Key to Farming Emissions Cuts

This blog post was written by Ana Maria Loboguerrero Rodriguez and originally appeared on ClimateChangeNews.com.

Our food system is not ready to meet the 2C global warming limit agreed by governments.

According to research out this week, agriculture alone should be reducing non-CO2 emissions one gigatonne a year by 2030 in order to meet the newly signed Paris Agreement.

Further analysis shows that that current agronomic and policy interventions compatible with food production would achieve only 21 to 40% of the needed mitigation to meet agriculture’s share of the target agreed in Paris.

Dairy Cows - Photo Credit: AgriLife Today

Agriculture contributes between 10-12% of global emissions, and has too much mitigation potential to be ignored. 119 countries have pledged to include reducing agricultural emissions in their action plans, submitted ahead of the Paris conference earlier this year. The will is there – but do countries have a way?

There are many promising solutions in the pipeline that will not only reduce emissions, but also ensure enough food is grown to feed a hungry world. But they require major investment to bring them to scale globally. Here are just some of the possibilities.

Sustainable intensification of livestock

Livestock accounts for up to half of emissions in agriculture.1 Notably, cows produce methane from digesting grass.

This can be reduced with new breeds of cattle that produce less methane, and recently developed food additives that reduce dairy cow emissions by 30% without affecting milk yields.

Improving livestock feed and feeding practices, allows livestock production to be intensified on a smaller area. Effective manure management, and the cultivation of grasses that accumulate carbon in soils can reduce emissions by at least 10%.

Preliminary data from the LivestockPlus project (a project conducted in Colombia and Costa Rica by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security) suggests that cultivating grasses such as Brachiaria, which supresses the biological process that turns fertilizer into nitrous oxide, can reduce the emissions of this greenhouse gas to more than 60% in urine patches, which are considered “emission hotspots”... Read more at ClimateChangeNews.com.