Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sustainable Agriculture Mitigates Climate Change and has Climate Adaptation Potential

Cannabis agriculture is a critical component of sustainable, organic agricultural rotations. Add to this the production of biofuels and food from the same harvest, and production of atmospheric monoterpenes, and organic hemp agriculture has the potential for making an enormous difference in the quality of life for future generations.

A report by the International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO and FIBL (Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, Switzerland) (2007) provides a detailed assessment of the benefits of organic farming regarding climate change. The benefits are summarized as follows (Khor, 2008):

—Organic agriculture has considerable potential for reducing emissions.

—In general it requires less fossil fuel per hectare and kg of produce due to the avoidance of synthetic fertilisers. Organic agriculture aims to improve soil fertility and nitrogen supply by using leguminous crops, crop residues and cover crops.

—The enhanced soil fertility leads to a stabilization of soil organic matter and in many cases to a sequestration of carbon dioxide into the soils.

—This in turn increases the soil's water retention capacity, thus contributing to better adaptation of organic agriculture under unpredictable climatic conditions with higher temperatures and uncertain precipitation levels. Organic production methods emphasizing soil carbon retention are most likely to withstand climatic challenges particularly in those countries most vulnerable to increased climate change. Soil erosion, an important source of carbon dioxide losses, is effectively reduced by organic agriculture.

—Organic agriculture can contribute substantially to agroforestry production systems.

—Organic systems are highly adaptive to climate change due to the application of traditional skills and farmers' knowledge, soil fertility-building techniques and a high degree of diversity.

The study concludes that: "Within agriculture, organic agriculture holds an especially favourable position, since it realizes mitigation and sequestration of carbon dioxide in an efficient ways. Organic production has great mitigation and adaptation potential, particularly with regard topsoil organic matter fixation, soil fertility and water-holding capacity, increasing yields in areas with medium to low-input agriculture and in agro-forestry, and by enhancing farmers' adaptive capacity. Paying farmers for carbon sequestration may be considered a win-win-win situation as (a) carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere (mitigation); (b) higher organic matter levels in soil enhance their resilience (adaptation), and (c) improved soil organic matter levels lead to better crop yield (production)."

Crucially, for farmers who have to face increased climate variability and extreme weather events in the near future, sustainable agriculture, by increasing resilience within the agroecosystem, increases its ability to continue functioning when faced with unexpected events such as climate change. For example, organic agriculture builds adaptive capacity on farms as it promotes agroecological resilience, biodiversity, healthy landscape management, and strong community knowledge processes (Borron, 2006).

Improved soil quality and efficient water use also strengthen agroecosystems, while practices that enhance biodiversity allow farms to mimic natural ecological processes, which enables them to better respond to change. Sustainable farming practices that preserve soil fertility and maintain, or even increase, organic mater in soils can reduce the negative effects of drought while increasing crop productivity (Niggli et al., 2008).

from "Sustainable Agriculture Mitigates Climate Change and has Climate Adaptation Potential"