It isn’t very often that agriculture gets a pat on the back for its ability to increase production and make a significant contribution to the environment. But it actually happened recently, and it was a big surprise when we learned that the positive information about high-yield agriculture came from Stanford University researchers. The new study was led by two Stanford earth scientists.
We got the article by e-mail from a CAFA board member in June. He was ecstatic when he read the article that was in the June 14 Stanford Report and he was eager to get it circulated to other board members. The article, written by Louis Bergeron, supplies a lot of detailed information that could cause cardiac arrest for environmental extremists who want to turn back the clock to the 17th century.
By itself, the article’s title, “High-yield agriculture slows pace of global warming…” is enough to get environmentalists rattled. But not to worry, there’s little hope that the mainstream media will pay attention to the research results. Here’s how the article opens: “Advances in high-yield agriculture achieved during the so-called Green Revolution have not only helped feed the planet, but also have helped slow the pace of global warming by cutting the amount of biomass burned – and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions – when forests or grasslands are cleared for farming. Stanford researchers estimate those emissions have been trimmed by over half a trillion tons of carbon dioxide.”
Another statement that hits home is the support for high-intensity agriculture vs. the “old-fashioned” way of doing things. The results “dispel the notion that modern intensive agriculture is inherently worse for the environment…”
Environmental groups pushing to halt the introduction of GMO crops should look at the benefits of technology to gain higher yields. Increased yields have reduced the need to clear more land and increase greenhouse gases, say the researchers. They estimate that “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 research report also has a significant statement for funding ag research. Their calculations, starting in 1961, show a “high rate of financial return” when compared to other methods of reducing greenhouse gasses. In concluding their findings, the researchers said that improving yields “should be prominent among a portfolio of strategies to reduce global greenhouse gases emissions.” The article is available at http://news.stanford.edu/news/2010/june/agriculture-global-warming-061410.html.
• Can you believe this? The National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance (NAFA) has a column in Hay & Forage Grower magazine and we finally read the March issue. If you wonder why Congress is so screwed up the article has a good hint. According to Colorado Congressman John Salazar, “A member of the Ag Committee actually asked me if chocolate milk really comes from brown cows.” Salazar went on to say, “I asked if he was joking and he assured me he wasn’t.”
And this guy is on the hay committee?