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  1. 08 Jul '13 10:49 / 2 edits
    Holistic Management


    My sister talks about holistic management quite a lot. It is claimed that:
    1. Using livestock effectively can dramatically improve topsoil, especially in semi-desert type land (or at least what appears to be semi-desert, the claim is that poor farming practices are largely to blame).
    2. Poor farming practices and loss of soil carbon is a big factor in global warming.
    3. Holistic management can put so much carbon into the soil that if implemented globally it could reverse the increase in atmospheric carbon and thus deal with global warming.

    I have found almost no mention of this in news with regards to global warming and governments seem to almost exclusively concentrate on CO2 producers who use it for power. In Zambia for example, we traditionally burn the grass each year, which probably releases more CO2 than all our cars do, yet there is no mention of this in any carbon related policies that I am aware of.

    Am interested in comments on this and whether people with expertise in the field can verify or criticize the claims.

    edit: I didn't intend to have the URL in the thread title, but it can't be edited after posting.
  2. Standard member DeepThought
    Losing the Thread
    08 Jul '13 16:39
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    Holistic Management


    My sister talks about holistic management quite a lot. It is claimed that:
    1. Using livestock effectively can dramatically improve topsoil, especially in semi-desert type land (or at least what appears to be semi-desert, the claim is that poor farming practices are largely to blame).
    2. Poor farming practices and loss of soil ca ...[text shortened]... it: I didn't intend to have the URL in the thread title, but it can't be edited after posting.
    I'm perfectly prepared to believe claim 1. I don't believe claims 2 and 3. I'm also put off by the language, specifically use of "holistic", whenever that word appears as a headline you can be pretty certain there's some pseudo-science behind it. It seems like a reasonable thing to do for reason 1, but I doubt it's enough to seriously dent global warming. Reversing desertification is a sufficient justification.
  3. 08 Jul '13 16:48
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    It seems like a reasonable thing to do for reason 1, but I doubt it's enough to seriously dent global warming.
    I am also skeptical, but would like to see evidence either way. I do think that a large part of the carbon going into the atmosphere is due agriculture (and have have seen climate scientists give this as a major component).
    What I would like to know is what the percentage is, and what impact reversing it would have, and why it is not generally discussed by decision makers.
  4. Standard member DeepThought
    Losing the Thread
    08 Jul '13 17:10
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    I am also skeptical, but would like to see evidence either way. I do think that a large part of the carbon going into the atmosphere is due agriculture (and have have seen climate scientists give this as a major component).
    What I would like to know is what the percentage is, and what impact reversing it would have, and why it is not generally discussed by decision makers.
    I thought methane was the big thing in farming, and that the main source of CO2 in farming was from fuel use - unless they are talking about loss of carbon-sink effect. More photosynthesizers locking carbon into sugars is obviously a help. I'd be prepared to believe a smaller claim of a carbon offset effect.
  5. 08 Jul '13 18:08
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    I thought methane was the big thing in farming, and that the main source of CO2 in farming was from fuel use - unless they are talking about loss of carbon-sink effect. More photosynthesizers locking carbon into sugars is obviously a help. I'd be prepared to believe a smaller claim of a carbon offset effect.
    The issue is soil carbon.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soil_carbon

    If we pushed the soil carbon up by 30%, we would strip all carbon from the atmosphere.
    Similarly, if we reduce soil carbon by 30% we double the atmospheric carbon.

    I am sure that farming practices have significantly affected soil carbon in large parts of the world, the questions are how much, can it be reversed, and to how it compares relatively to the burning of fossil fuels/ carbon capture projects/ green energy projects.
    For example, rather than building a nuclear plant, would it be better to spend the money on training farmers in better methods of farming.

    On a related note, in Zambia, we heavily subsidise fertilizer. I am told that with better training, farmers can use significantly less fertilizer. I believe it would be cheaper to train farmers than to continue to subsidize the fertilizer.