According to the National Farmers Federation, Australia requires a stronger climate policy. They are calling for the Morrison government today to set a broad economic goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
It is quite reasonable that the agricultural sector calls for more action to combat climate change. Agriculture is especially vulnerable to climate change. The sector is working towards becoming carbon neutral while still maintaining its profitability.
Australia is very proud of its agricultural sector. Australia’s 51% land use is dominated by farmers. They also contributed 11% to all goods and services exported in 2018-19. The sector contributed 14% to national greenhouse gas emissions. Australia needs a climate-ready, carbon neutral food production sector for its future food security and economy.
Paris Agreement Is Driving Changes
According to the 2015 Paris Agreement, 196 nations pledged to cut their emissions. The goal is net-zero emission by 2050. 119 of these commitments included cutting agricultural emissions, while 61 specifically addressed livestock emissions.
Methane (from livestock production), nitrogen (from soils), and, to a lesser degree, carbon dioxide (from machinery using fossil fuel and the use of lime or urea on soils) are all major components of agricultural emissions.
Australia’s emissions from this sector have dropped by 10.8% in the past decade, partly due to drought and an ever-changing climate that has had an impact on agricultural production (for instance, wheat production).
The National Farmers Federation however wants the sector’s farm gate production to reach A$100 Billion by 2030. This is far more than the current $84 billion trajectory. If mitigation strategies are not implemented, this will lead to future emissions growth.
Runs On The Farmers Board
Australia’s agricultural sector is already showing that net-zero emissions are possible. The Australian red meat industry committed to carbon neutrality by 2030 in 2017. A variety of red meat producers claim to have achieved net zero emissions, including Arcadian Organic & Natural’s Meat Company and Five Founders.
Our research revealed that two Australian livestock properties Talaheni farms and Jigsaw farms- also have carbon neutral production. This was achieve primarily through the regeneration of soil carbon and tree carbon on their property, which in turn draws down an equal amount of carbon dioxide from their atmosphere to balance their farm emissions.
Other agricultural sectors, such as cropping, dairy and wool are also actively looking at their emission reduction targets. Ross Hill, Tulloch, and Tahbilk are producing carbon neutral wines.
Offset Farmers Emissions
These examples focus on offset farm emissions, such as buying carbon credits or regenerating soil carbon. They are not based on direct reductions of emissions like methane and nitrogen. There are many options available or in development to reduce enteric methane emissions. This is the result of fermentation occurring in the foreguts of ruminants like sheep, cattle, and goats.
You can feed livestock dietary supplements rich in oils and tannins, which will reduce the number of microbes that produce methane in their stomachs. Grape marc, which is the solid waste from grape pressing, contains oil and tannins. It has shown to reduce methane emission by about 20%.
There are other promising technologies that are soon to hit the market. Asparagopsis and 3-NOP are two other promising technologies that actively inhibit methane-generating enzymes. These technologies could reduce methane up to 80%. Active research programs are underway to find ways to breed animals that make less methane and raise animals that don’t produce methane as much later in life.
Nitrous oxide is mostly lost on farms through a process called denitrification. This is when bacteria converts soil nitrates to nitrogen gases. These gases then escape from soil into the atmosphere. There are many options to reduce these losses, including effective nitrogen fertilisers and balanced diets for animals.