[permaculture] Organic Farming Beats No-Till?

Lawrence F. London, Jr. lflj at bellsouth.net
Tue Jul 17 11:08:12 EDT 2007

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [SANET-MG] Organic Farming Beats No-Till?
Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2007 10:16:41 -0400
From: STEVE GILMAN <stevegilman at VERIZON.NET>

Hi Janet, and all --

Small wonder that conventional chemical no-till adherants are staking
a claim for garnering carbon credits. They've been touting no-till as
THE agribusiness salvation for erosion protection and lesser ag
energy use through reduced tillage, and as the best way to reduce
agriculture's hefty contribution to  climate change via the soil
sequestration of carbon.

What they don't dwell on is the method's complete dependance on agri-
petroleum inputs -- for the herbicides needed to kill the cover crop
to plant into and for the increased synthetic fertilizers required to
grow the cash crop in a killed sod environment along with all the
insecticides, fungicides and other pesticides required to produce the
crop. Rather, when counting up the carbon credits, the no-till
researchers and advocates are only counting what they want to count.

In reality, the enhanced use of chemical fertilizers generates major
amounts of nitrous oxide -- a virulent greenhouse gas 296 times more
potent per pound than carbon dioxide. There's also all the
significant embedded energy costs in manufacturing and transporting
the synthetic fertilizers and herbicides as well as the machinery/
fuel to apply them. As for erosion control, well maybe, but only in
terms of non-sustainable, ecologically ruinous trade-offs. Around
here, (hilly upstate NY) chemical no-till was initially developed to
enable farmers to plant corn on highly erodable sloping areas -- land
better off in pasture, hay or trees. Going no-till also required
considerable investment in special heavy duty planters designed to
plant into sod -- and larger tractor HP to pull it.

And overall, no-till has found limited value in northern zone areas
because the killed cover keeps soils cooler longer into the planting
season, delaying the soil microbial biological nutrient exchange
activity necessary for plant growth, restricting it's usage to
central and southern areas.

And as the "organic farming beats no-till" research <www.ars.usda.gov/
is/pr/2007/070710.htm> demonstrates, even standard organic builds
more organic matter and sequesters more carbon, than chemical no-till
-- without co-generating the nitrous oxide, pollutant and pesticide
"side effects."  In addition, there's exciting research at Rodale and
elsewhere on Organic no-till which relies on roller/crimpers, etc. to
mechanically kill the cover crop, while using biologically-based
fertility enhancements such as compost, legume rotations, amendments,
etc. to bring in the main crop, while building organic matter and
sequestering carbon in soil organic matter as well as in  the more
stable and lasting humus, chitin and fungal glomalin.

Energy-wise, Organic is essentially a solar agriculture, using 30%
less energy inputs to begin with. Conventional ag is a major
petrochemical industry, however, completely dependent on a rapidly
diminishing oil supply and escalating petro-input costs --
unsustainable into even the near future.

In short, ALL the numbers for organic carbon credits really DO add
up, even if Organic's OTHER beneficent environmental and health side
effects (clean air and water, no pesticide poisoning, food security,
etc.) aren't part of the equation.

Rigorous studies comparing organic and chemical methods are
critically important if we're to have a valid scientific basis for
issuing saleable carbon credits to farmers.  I'm not sure who makes
the decisions awarding carbon credits at the Chicago Exchange, but I
haven't heard anything to indicate that organic is even on their
radar screen. We should all be jumping up and down to get Organic at
the top of the list. As more and more organic agriculture comes on
line and the price premium drops in the marketplace (already
happening in dairy) the extra income from carbon credits are a major
(non-subsidy) incentive for the transformation of (world) agriculture
to the organic method -- especially when ALL the costs are counted
and conventional farmers end up having to BUY carbon credits to
continue their conventional practices, no-till included...

Steve Gilman
Ruckytucks Farm

On Jul 17, 2007, at 12:00 AM, SANET-MG automatic digest system wrote:

> Date:    Mon, 16 Jul 2007 10:37:19 -0700
> From:    "Babin, Janet" <jbabin at MARKETPLACE.ORG>
> Subject: Re: Organic Farming Beats No-Till?
> Hi All:
> I'm working on a story about the Chicago Climate Exchange's new  
> deadline
> for farmer participation this year.  The Exchange, as many of you  
> know,
> pays farmers for 'carbon-credits' that they get for no-till farming on
> their land.  They they trade them on the exchange.
> I wonder, are any organic farmers planning to take part in the Climate
> Exchange this year?  (the deadline is in mid-August).  Because no-till
> is one of the ways to get money, it would seem to me difficult for
> organic farmers to participate (somewhat ironic). =20
> But then I came across John here...and thought I'd better ask.
> Thanks,
> Janet

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