A new report lays out a way for Canada to offset 11% of its carbon emissions annually through natural climate solutions, such as utilizing cover crops. The report was authored by more than 3 dozen scientists and found that Canada has the potential to offset 78 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions (ghg) by 2030. The natural climate solutions fall into one of 3 categories: protection, restoration and management.
Although 11% may not seem like a large amount of carbon emissions, in the big picture, it is significant. It’s the equivalent of carbon pollution from powering all Canadian homes for 3 years.
Another component of natural climate solutions is carbon pricing. The report found that a third of the potential mitigation of carbon pollution is possible at a carbon price of $50 per 1.1 tons. Even if costs are high, the benefits of using natural climate solutions — such as increased biodiversity — are difficult to quantify, but ultimately priceless.
The report declared that the Canadian agriculture industry holds nearly half the nation’s potential for carbon pollution mitigation from natural climate solutions — some 37.4 million tons of carbon. For example, using cover crops on an additional 13.8 million acres in Alberta could mitigate 2.3 million tons of annual carbon. Currently, only 12,118 acres are cover cropped in Alberta.
Our neighbors to the north aren’t the only ones working to implement cover crops on more acres of farm ground — American growers are working toward the same goal. The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy calls for a total estimated 10.5 million acres of no-till and strip-till, 12.5 million acres of covers — roughly half of Iowa’s total crop acres — and 120,000 bioreactors and saturated buffers.
According to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture, cover crops were used on 973,000 acres in Iowa. The Iowa Nutrient Research & Education Council conducted a survey in 2017 that found that Iowa farmers planted 1.6 million acres of covers. Iowa Learning Farms found that growers in Iowa only planted 880,000 acres of cover crops in 2018. No matter where you get the numbers, Iowa growers have a long way to go to hit 12.5 million acres of cover crops.
To be sure, the numbers are going in the right direction for both Canada and the U.S., but there is still plenty of work to be done implementing cover crops on more acres across North America.