“In the U.S., some estimates are 25-30 percent (in no-till) but that’s not continuous no-till,” he said. “We’re probably at about 10 to 15 percent continuous no-till, so there’s a huge opportunity in the U.S. for our role to manage our own emissions, but there’s also opportunity around the world where no-till has been less well received, to take action in this way.”
Promoting product use with low emissions – This recommendation pertains mostly to the forestry sector, Rice said. Cement is a major emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2) greenhouse gas, so the authors suggested that wood products or others with lower emissions than cement be considered where cement has traditionally been used.
In addition, however, agriculture’s use of fossil energy could be reduced as a mitigation step, Rice said: “When we make agriculture more efficient and use less tillage, we’re also using less energy. We can make agriculture more efficient and more profitable in this way because energy is a significant cost. So it has the benefit of reducing emissions, direct and indirect, and therefore increasing profitability.
“That’s one of the unusual aspects for our sector, is that land is used for multiple things – agriculture, forestry, and ecosystem services, including water quality and wildlife. So this sector has some opportunities to help improve the quality of land resources as well as mitigating climate change.”
Increasing crop yields and livestock feeding efficiency. Rice described this proposal as reducing inputs while maintaining or increasing outputs, which makes production more efficient.
For U.S. farmers, he said, nitrogen makes up about 40 percent of their inputs: “That’s not true around the world but we can improve that. In livestock emissions, U.S. and Europe have made strides to make livestock production more efficient but in some other parts of the world, lower quality of animal plus poor forage quality leaves much room for improvement in livestock efficiency.”
Pursuing changing human diets away from food animal products – Rice acknowledged that this recommendation may be controversial, but the authors determined that changing human diets away from food animal products could help in mitigating greenhouse gasses.
“Methane emissions from livestock is a major contributor to agriculture’s footprint,” Rice said. “Approximately 40 percent of agriculture’s emissions are due to livestock and if we could reduce livestock that would reduce emissions. The report acknowledges that there are social and political barriers to all of these options. Certainly the consumption of meat would be a social barrier. Traditionally as countries increase their personal income, meat or protein consumption goes up.”