[ASC-media] Media Release: new way to cool global warming

Science Media jca-media at starclass.com.au
Sun Jul 13 06:26:13 EST 2003



July 13, 2003


The world's food producing soils could become a major weapon in the war on Global Warming, say leading soil scientists due to meet in Australia tomorrow.

Farmers switching to advanced tillage systems could have a major impact on the ability of the world's farmlands to lock up greenhouse gases, they said.

"In Australia alone our farm soils can potentially absorb an extra 100 billion tonnes CO2-equivalent in greenhouse emissions a year if we adopt 'controlled traffic' farming widely," says Dr Jeff Tullberg of the University of Queensland.

Ways to curb the greenhouse effect through improved farming practices are a focus of the International Soil Tillage Research Organisation (ISTRO) meeting at the University of Queensland in Brisbane in the coming week.

"At the moment, tilling our soils liberates about 21 Gigatonnes (billion tonnes) of nitrous oxide - a greenhouse gas.  Compacting the soil under machinery causes runoff, which wastes nitrogen fertiliser and adds to greenhouse emissions. Tillage burns a lot of fuel and releases CO2. And current tillage systems are hammering the soil's organic - or carbon - content.

"However, we can reduce or avoid all these things by using controlled traffic/zero tillage farming systems. This has potential to cut emissions by between a quarter and a third overall and achieve a huge increase in soil carbon content - otherwise known as fertility

"Using these systems we can grow more food to feed the world, while at the same time locking up vast amounts of greenhouse gas," Dr Tullberg says.

The main benefit is to soil organic content, or fertility.  Combined use of controlled traffic and zero tillage can, for example, lead to a six- or eight-fold increase in the numbers of worms in the soil.

"Worms are an indicator of a healthy soil. They open it up for water, air and nutrients. It can store more water, It leads to a buildup in soil carbon - organic matter," Dr Tullberg says.

If Australia raised its soil organic content by just 0.1 per cent across our whole cropping area, it would lock up 200,000 billion tonnes of CO2, he calculates

"So if we build the fertility and productivity of our soils, not only do we produce more food and enjoy a much healthier landscape - we also make a major contribution to fighting Global Warming.

"It's a case of win-win-win.  This approach makes so much sense, it is essential to do everything we can to develop these technologies and see them widely adopted, here and overseas."

Some ISTRO  President, Dr Tullberg says innovative Australia farmers have demonstrated a world first in large-scale adoption of controlled traffic farming systems. They are now in a position to lead an international move to the new technology.

International soils researchers are meeting at the ISTRO conference at the University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld, from July 14-18, 2003. 

More information:

Dr Jeff Tullberg, University of Queensland	
Mob.  +61 (0) 417134372
Email: J.Tullberg at uq.edu.au

Sally Brown, ISTRO Conference
Ph     +61 7 3201 2808
Fax    +61 7 3201 2809
Mobile 0407 178 200
Email: sally.brown at uq.net.au

Media pictures at: http://www.aghort.uq.edu.au/staff/jtullberg/Pics.doc

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