Carbon Capture Food Production

Plants take carbon dioxide from the air and, powered by sunlight, turn it into carbohydrates for energy use. They also use the air-carbon to build plant roots. The roots, in turn, feed carbon to the soil microbes, especially the long fungal threads that help plants get key nutrients.

Plants – Roots – Microbes, these three work together in biological carbon capture. Can this really mitigate the climate-crisis while also being good for the economy? How is this possible? What seems fantastic is really just applied science. Food production causes about 11% of carbon emissions in Canada compared to the energy sector, which is 25% or more.

Chemical fertilizer use for grain and oil seeds, has increased significantly in Canada and this has resulted in more greenhouse gases coming off agricultural land. My take on the numbers is that fertilizer use has gone up more than yields have. Farmers are not getting the benefits they should be. Cutting back on fertilizer use, using legumes and deep rooted grasses in the crop rotation – these could help reduce expenses and increase farm profits. At the same time this would capture more carbon while producing food.

This is easy to say but very hard to do without a lot of trial and error experience by the food producers. This is true for crops and livestock. The good news is that lots of ranchers and farmers are capturing carbon while producing food.
How can we get the majority to do this? Could large and small emitters pay ranchers and farmers for the extra carbon they are capturing.

Here is a list of the ranching and farming practices that are proven to capture carbon:
1. No-Till and/or modified Tillage
2. Periodic application of composted livestock manure
3. Intensive short duration rotational grazing
4. Crop rotation cycles of 4 years or longer
5. Include legumes in crop rotations
6. Multi-species pasture and cover crop mixtures
7. Planting fence lines and land along water ways with shrubs/grasses
Source: Carbon Sequestration by Agricultural Soils 2001 PRB 00-3BE
Parliamentary Research Branch Frederic Forge
Managing Canadian Croplands to Maximize Carbon Sequestration 2019 CAPI funded Dr. Sean Smukler