No-till key to ag’s climate response
July 7, 2009
COLUMBUS, Ohio, (DTN) – Farmers can benefit from carbon sequestration if they work in the right soil type, but those producers are going to have to work harder at embracing no-till practices as well.
That’s part of the challenge advocates for carbon sequestration in Ohio face as they seek to broaden acceptance of no-till and incorporate it into agriculture’s response to potential climate-change legislation.
While U.S. senators heard from Obama administration officials in Washington about climate change and the impacts of legislation on Americans, members of the 25x’25 steering committee held a forum Tuesday at Ohio State University for scientists and farmers, as well as a group of German farmers who are visiting the country and examining how U.S. agriculture is working on carbon sequestration.
Ernie Shea, coordinator of the 25x’25 group, said the perception around the country is that agriculture is meeting fewer of society’s needs. Efforts in agriculture to work on carbon offsets are a way farmers can help with environmental challenges. A problem, however, is there is much resistance in the countryside to the science behind climate change. That erodes the understanding that either legislation or possible EPA regulation may occur.
“As I travel around the country right now, what I observe is a lot of coffee-shop chatter that is not grounded in facts,” Shea said.
Some farm leaders in Ohio are trying to get more farmers to convert to no-till farming practices, but farmers are resistant. The practice in Ohio is often that farmers will use no-till before planting soybeans, but want to plow before planting corn. Only 10 percent to 15 percent of farmers practice continuous no-till, said Randall Reeder, an extension agricultural engineer for Ohio State University.
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“I always tell farmers it doesn’t matter if you believe in global warming, putting carbon in the soil and storing it is good,” Reeder said.
On Monday, the group of 15 Germans toured some farm operations doing no-till practices or that are in the process of capturing methane from dairy lagoons. Gary Davis of Marysville, Ohio, told the Germans he began no-till farming in 1972, largely as a way to save time and energy making trips across the fields. Given the Davis farm has no-tilled so long, the operation may be hitting the finite capacity of its carbon storage. Davis’ farm is now being studied by researchers at Ohio State to look at the actual carbon being stored on the property.
“I’m anxious to learn what the data says,” Davis said. “I will gain more out of this just in learning and the information.”
Despite his history in no-till farming, Davis doesn’t sell carbon credits for his 3,500-acre farm. Carbon credits are an incentive, but right now don’t provide the bang for the buck. A farmer right now signing up to sell carbon credits may get a flat fee of $2 an acre with no one coming out to check the actual carbon capture or considering soil type.
“Right now, it’s all treated the same,” Reeder said. “Those of you in agriculture know there is no way that is scientifically true.”