Why No-Till Is Critical In Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

With large increases in greenhouse gases over very short time intervals, agriculture is going to be facing some very interesting environmental times over the next 100 years.

In 5 years, Phil Robertson believes that no-tillers could be cashing in on carbon trading and tax incentives for carbon sequestration.

“If we play our cards right, we’ll also see credits for good nitrogen stewardship because nitrogen can have just as much impact on the global warming potential (GWP) of the atmosphere as carbon dioxide,” says the Michigan State University (MSU) soil microbiologist located at the Kellogg Biological Station at Hickory Corners, Mich.

Federal legislation passed a year ago has set the stage for tax incentives for carbon sequestration and there may be legislation in the new farm bill that provides for environmental credits. “There are early indications that credits will be focused on greenhouse gas mitigation potential,” says Robertson.

Yet there is much more to carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas mitigation than carbon dioxide emission. Nitrogen plays a strong role in the effect of cropping systems on greenhouse gas emissions. Robertson and his MSU colleagues have been examining the potential for different types of cropping systems to affect atmospheric chemistry in a 10-year study in southwestern Michigan.

Cause For Concern.

Carbon dioxide levels have been increasing in the atmosphere, which is a cause for concern. “We are currently at 370 parts per million (ppm) by volume in the atmosphere, which is disconcerting when you consider we probably started out at about 280 ppm at the start of the Industrial Revolution,” says Robertson.

“The increase over the last couple hundred years has been staggering compared to the relatively small changes…

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