Stanford researchers dispel the belief that high yield agriculture, with its intensive use of fuel-guzzling machinery and chemical fertilisers, emits huge amounts of “dangerous” greenhouse gases. Read here.
High yield agriculture has resulted in a savings of the equivalent of 590 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.
The Stanford news release writes:
– The yield improvements reduced the need to convert forests to farmland, a process that typically involves burning of trees and other plants, which generates carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
– The researchers estimate that if not for increased yields, additional greenhouse gas emissions from clearing land for farming would have been equal to as much as a third of the world’s total output of greenhouse gases since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in 1850.
– The researchers found that without the advances in high-yield agriculture, several billion additional acres of cropland would have been needed.
The researchers also calculated that for every dollar spent on agricultural research and development since 1961, emissions of the three principal greenhouse gases – methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide – were reduced by the equivalent of about a quarter of a ton of carbon dioxide – a high rate of financial return compared to other approaches to reducing the gases.
I wonder if these results will lead activist environmental organisations to reconsider the use of gene-improved plants, which have the potential to greatly improve yield. You also have to ask if organic agriculture, with its non-use of chemical fertilisers and thus lower yields, is bad for the planet. And, the results of this study should tell governments concerned about GHG that bio-fuels are a bad idea because they require millions of acres of extra farmland, in addition to that used for food production.