According to a new report from the 2016 Farm Progress Show biofuels can help combat climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). ICF International conducted the research entitled, “Charting a Path to Carbon Neutral Agriculture: Mitigation Potential for Crop Based Strategies,” and found that widespread adoption of recommended practices could potentially result in more than 100 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent emission reductions in the U.S. alone.
The report focused on three near term strategies including cover crops, conservation tillage and precision nutrient management. The study also identified several long-term strategies that can also help reduce carbon emissions, but will require more research and time to scale-up. These strategies include:
- Ethanol production from corn stover. Corn stover (the stalks, leaves and cobs left in the field after corn harvest) represents a sizeable renewable source of biomass to augment ethanol production. This material could help reduce emissions from fossil fuels while sustainably managing excess crop residues in the field.
- Utilize crop material left in the field after harvest. There also is a possibility that available excess corn stover could be burned alongside coal in coal-fired power plants, which would reduce the amount of fossil fuel used through the use of this renewable source of energy. Available corn stover also could be processed into plant-based charcoal (biochar) that could be incorporated into the soil to increase soil health and store carbon in the soil not in the atmosphere.
“This report shows promising results and helps confirm the significant impact farmers can make when they adopt and maintain the practices noted in the report,” said Michael Lohuis, Ph.D., Lead Scientist for Environmental Strategy for Agriculture for Monsanto who commissioned the report as part of the company’s commitment to achieve a carbon neutrality by 2021.
Debbie Reed, Executive Director with the Coalition for Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, added, “Agriculture has the potential to play a critical role in addressing climate change. This report adds another critical set of data points to help quantify and demonstrate how the agriculture community can take actionable steps, both in the near-term and long-term that will have a substantial and positive impact on our planet.”
Listen to the Combating Climate Change with Ag press conference here: Combating Climate Change Report Presser