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2019 Spring - Managing agriculture’s ecosystem services

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FPJ1603E - Eckard, R & White, R (2019), Are grazing systems inherently carbon neutral

Eckard, R & White, R (2019), Are grazing systems inherently carbon neutral?, in Farm Policy Journal, vol. 16, no. 3, Spring 2019, pp. 35-41, Surry Hills, Australia.

Over the past 20 years both the physical and policy implications of climate change have started to impact agriculture in Australia. The COP21 Paris agreement committed countries to target net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. In response, a small number of graziers claim their systems to be carbon (C) positive, due to the extensive C captured by their pastures, indicating a misunderstanding of the fate of C in grazing systems. In permanent grassland systems carbon dioxide (CO2), captured from the atmosphere in pastures, cycled through the soil, animal and humans, is largely returned to the atmosphere. However, a small amount of methane (CH4) is also produced, which has been shown to warm the atmosphere. Carbon storage in soils and trees, while both important for sustainability, cannot accumulate indefinitely and therefore cannot offset livestock emissions indefinitely. A globally collaborative research effort is now focused on providing the livestock industries with cost-effective technologies to reduce enteric CH4, essential to achieving low emission or C-neutral livestock production systems.

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