Understanding the carbon footprint in farming systems.

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Executive Summary

Climate Change has become one of the crucial issues of the early 21st Century. Pressures are increasing on agribusinesses to reduce carbon emissions.  This drive for change is coming from an international level, not just nationally. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established in 1988 by the United Nations, has played a huge part in turning our attention to the concerns surrounding climate change. More recently in May 2008, the European Union adopted a report calling for carbon foot-printing labels on all goods and services. Recently UK supermarkets have adopted programmes which offer incentives to their growers if they join and achieve good scores in whole farm carbon footprint assessment.

New Zealand has a unique emissions profile with the agriculture sector the largest source of emissions, very unlike that of other developed countries. They make up almost half of our total emissions and have been rising at close to 1% per year since 1990. No matter what happens with the Kyoto Protocol or our national Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), New Zealand needs to prepare for a world where cost will be associated with greenhouse gases (GHGs). The current global credit crunch may have an impact on the timeframe but it is likely only to delay the inevitable – GHGs will be a cost to New Zealand’s agriculture.

The aim of this study was to analyse some of the different factors that could have a substantial impact on a New Zealand farmer’s ability to undertake GHG mitigation strategies on-farm.

To gain an understanding of on-farm carbon footprints I narrowed my focus to include

  • Carbon management models and their influence on N2O and CO2 levels
  • Biochar and what role it might play in New Zealand
  • Irrigation efficiency and what changes we can make
  • Precision agriculture – its role in minimising our carbon footprint

Understanding the Carbon Footprint in Farming Systems – Craige Mackenzie