October 13, 2020

Zero till not the only way farmers store carbon

In her October 1 article, Farmers want recognition for continued carbon work, Karen Briere correctly points out that the practice of zero tillage puts carbon back in the ground. The research conducted on this front by the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association is critical and should continue; however, zero tillage is only one of several ways that Saskatchewan farmers contribute to carbon sequestration and the fight against climate change. 

When Saskatchewan farms conserve native prairie grasslands, forested areas, and wetlands, they also store a great deal of carbon and increase Saskatchewan’s resilience against a changing climate. Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) believes these practices should be recognized for the benefits they provide to agriculture and society. 

Wetlands are optimum natural environments for sequestering and storing carbon from the atmosphere. It is estimated that Saskatchewan’s remaining wetlands store 360 million tonnes of carbon (1.3B tonnes of CO2), which is more than seven times the total annual carbon emissions from the transportation sector in Canada. 

Consequently, this stored carbon is released when wetlands are drained. In fact, draining as little as six hectares of wetland can release the same greenhouse gas equivalent as the carbon sequestered in one year from no-till farming 2,000 hectares. Conserving wetlands and other natural areas is another important way farmers improve the overall carbon budget of Saskatchewan. 

Because wetlands, native prairie and forested areas provide so much carbon storage value, it is essential that these areas are conserved. To that end, DUC supports intensifying crop production on lands currently being farmed in Saskatchewan. If new land must be brought into production, appropriate and real mitigation needs to occur – similar to the requirements placed on other industries. 

Our next provincial government needs to invest in green infrastructure programming, allowing more farms to take advantage of the natural systems they are working to protect. This should be coupled with a vigorous mitigation program that balances development with protection of natural systems. Green infrastructure and appropriate mitigation will make Saskatchewan farms even more sustainable, and will allow Saskatchewan’s agriculture sector to grow and prosper. 

Michael Champion, PAg – Head of Industry and Government Relations 

Ducks Unlimited Canada – Saskatchewan