"turning down agricultural emissions means altering biology - or getting rid of animals"Dr Rowarth indicates that both of these options are doomed by economic realities. I was puzzled because the biological farming methods we and others use are largely focused on fostering and cultivating (altering) soil biology, and here was the chief EPA scientist intimating we are mad.
Our working hypothesis goes like this:
- we can use liquid foliar feeding (alongside dry ground-spread) to stimulate pasture growth
- the diverse (salad bar) plants will share some of the nutrients with the soil through root exudates
- the soil critters (worms, beneficial bateria & fungi) have symbiotic relationships with the plants, supplying them with macro and micro-nutrients.
Most farmers know that P gets locked-up in the soil. That's why the fert reps say we have to keep putting moron, even when the soil tests say we have plenty. We sacked these twits years ago. Since then we've been using small amounts of slow-release organic P and like to think that our soil biota are helping to unlock the abundant P reserves we see in our soil tests.
We reckon that farming can and should be regenerative: we are trying to build the soil rather than deplete it. Traditional agricultural systems have been terrible at conserving carbon but recent science suggests that alternative grassland management systems can indeed regenerate the soil and sequester atmospheric carbon.
If you thought these soil carbon prospects might be of interest to the chief scientist for NZ's EPA, you are sadly mistaken. When I asked Dr Rowarth recently why we don't care about monitoring soil carbon she had three reasons: NZ already has lots of soil carbon, it comes & goes with drought and its very hard to measure. I don't buy any of these reasons: they sound like excuses to me.
- The current stock of soil carbon is irrelevant except as a baseline measure: farmers should be accountable for changes in soil carbon stocks.
- Droughts as a source of soil carbon volatility could be easily managed in a regulatory regime - for example with a rolling average over a few years.
- And technology is rapidly cutting the cost of measurement.
It is particularly distressing that our Environmental Protection Agency seems more interested in excuses than in pushing for (or even admitting there might be value in) scientific effort directed towards this particular form of "environmental protection" for which we pay our taxes.