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Report Provides Zero Carbon Solution


Smoke free, plastic free but, more significantly, tillage free.

A report to the Productivity Commission is recommending “bold action” to eliminate tillage or ploughing within the next five to 10 years and replace it with low disturbance no-tillage.

Every time soil is tilled through conventional methods, it releases huge quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere which contribute to global warming.

While the government has introduced a Zero Carbon Bill, it has overlooked the impact of cultivation which causes up to 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and the report challenges the Minister, James Shaw, through the Productivity Commission, to do something about it.

Its author, Chris Hook, CEO of Farmorganix Europe and BioCrop NZ, says the Minister is touring New Zealand selling his message but ignoring the potential contribution that arable farming could make.

He points out that centuries of cumulative soil disturbance (ploughing) worldwide has caused about 75 percent of carbon in organic matter to be oxidised into CO2 which is lost to the community.

“This has been exacerbated by the fact that arable soils, which provide 85 percent of our food, comprise four percent of the earth’s surface and continue to decline in both area and quantity,” he says. By 2050, when the population has increased by another 50 percent, the world won’t be able to feed itself.

Chris Hook says he’s not raising a problem but highlighting a solution because the answer is in front of our noses. Low disturbance no-tillage was refined at Massey University and widely acclaimed by such organisations as FAO but is potentially disruptive to multi-national agricultural machinery and tractor manufacturers as it’s capable of making virtually all crop establishment systems obsolete.

Yet it provides the answer to reducing carbon emissions, regenerating the soil and increasing yield.

Chris Hook point to Cross Slot technology, manufactured in Feilding, as the only machinery available worldwide that can successfully and repetitively seed and fertilise a new crop with minimal soil disturbance. At the same time the soil is restocked with new carbon extracted from the atmosphere.

Cross Slot “openers” penetrate through residue or stubble left on top of the soil after a crop has been harvested and sow seeds and fertiliser in separate bands into humidity-retaining soil slots.

Done properly, the process traps humidity, preserves the earthworms and micro-organisms killed by conventional cultivation, increases yield, prevents nitrogen being leached and largely retains carbon in the soil.

Because plants absorb carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis there is more carbon going in than out. The method, based on years of university research, addresses climate change and increases the amount of food that the world produces at the same time.

Low disturbance no-tillage is akin to keyhole surgery, cultivation or ploughing is invasive surgery.

Chris Hook says the Productivity Commission’s mandate of advising the government on how New Zealand can achieve zero emissions by 2050 can be hugely boosted by replacing cultivation with low disturbance no-tillage.

“In the mix of electric cars and tree planting, our submission says there’s proof that converting to Cross-Slot will reduce CO2 emissions by six million tonnes per annum and improve productivity and the cost of growing crops by $300 million per annum,” he says.

“When the government includes farming in the Emissions Trading Scheme, farmers will earn significant dollars by adopting Cross Slot technology.”

Chris Hook also wants the agricultural scientific community to seriously examine the practicality of converting chemical fertilisers to bio-fertilisers. He says chemical fertilisers are causing major problems in New Zealand by polluting fresh water and ground water which leads to nitrous oxide being released into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas.

Chris, an authority on bio-technology, says bio-fertilisers are used successfully in Asia, America and parts of Europe and can be applied to New Zealand.

“Bio-fertiliser is formulated as a liquid which contains concentrated soil microbes that are applied to the soil. It’s alphabet soup where the letters are replaced by soil bugs,” he says. “Bio-fertiliser will also reduce the amount of methane which animals belch which also contributes to climate change.”

In his submission Chris Hook says bio-fertiliser in combination with low disturbance no-tillage provides a sustainable answer for increased food supply and meeting the government’s target of net zero emissions in the years to come.

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