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For several years, there’s been talk in western Canada about offering tax credits to no-till farmers who store additional carbon in the soil. A few years back, Canadian utility companies saw the concept as a way to offset huge penalties for atmospheric emissions from coal-powered electric plants.
Basically, crop plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and deposit a portion in soil humus during photosynthesis. Yet, intensive tillage leads to more carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere while no-till holds more in the soil humus.
Few people argue about growing global warming concerns and the fact that greenhouse gases—of which carbon dioxide makes up 80 percent—have been increasing steadily for 50 years.
Research indicates soils can store 680 pounds to 1 1/2 tons per acre of carbon when no-tilling in a continuous cropping program.
One of the Canadian groups involved in outlining the farmer’s contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association (SSCA). Leaders believe carbon sequestration in soils extends good soil stewardship and helps overcome the fact that the Canadian government will soon be forced to take drastic action to reduce fossil fuel consumption. In fact, the carbon emissions reduction target will equal the total fuel now used by all forms of Canadian transportation.
“If our efforts to turn prairie soils into a carbon sink are recognized, we won’t suffer when we approach the `pains’ portion of emission reductions,” says John Bennett, SSCA First Vice-President and a no-tiller from…