|For Immediate Release:
Embargoed until October 10, 2003
Ann Meyers at (717) 951-7221
Michael Straus at (415) 777-1170
Groundbreaking study proves organic farming counters greenhouse gases
The Rodale Institute’s groundbreaking Farming Systems Trial®, the world’s longest running study of organic farming, has documented that organic soils actually scrub the atmosphere of global warming gases by capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide and converting it into soil material. This is the first study to differentiate organic farming techniques from conventional agricultural practices for their ability to serve as carbon sinks.
Organic farming is a powerful new tool in the global warming arsenal, said Anthony Rodale, chairman of the The Rodale Institute. It puts agriculture into a lead role - in regenerating the environment.
Through a process called carbon sequestration, plants and soils act as sinks for atmospheric carbon dioxide. Carbon sequestered in vegetation and soil is not readily released as carbon dioxide, providing a significant boost in the efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. While carbon helps stimulate plant growth, scientists estimate carbon dioxide may be responsible for more than 80 percent of global warming.
Although it’s not a silver bullet, carbon sequestration can become a powerful component of a multi-pronged approach to managing the issue of global warming. Since 1981, The Rodale Institute has monitored soil carbon and nitrogen levels in scientifically controlled test fields using organic as well as a wide range of other farming methods. In the organic systems, soil carbon increased 15 to 28 percent.
These results are the extension of findings first published in the journal Nature in 1999 and have undergone additional peer review.
While the effects of carbon sequestration have been known for some time, The Rodale Institute’s research provides the most definitive, long-term evidence about organic agriculture's asset as a tool against global warming.
This is very good news, said Paul Hepperly, The Rodale Institute’s research manager. The extent of carbon sequestration found and the impressive ability of organic systems to capture carbon are important results that should be used by policy makers when planning future agriculture development.
The Rodale Institute’s studies show an average increase in soil carbon of about 1,000 pounds per acre-foot of soil, or about 3,500 pounds of carbon dioxide per acre-foot per year sequestered. If multiplied over the 160 million acres of corn and soybean produced nationally, 580 billion pounds of carbon dioxide could potentially be sequestered using existing low input organic farming methods.
Because the Farming Systems Trial® found that organic farming practices emit fewer greenhouse gases, the carbon sequestration findings are exciting on their own, said Anthony Rodale. Additionally, The Rodale Institute’s multi-year study also produces compelling evidence about the economic viability of organic agriculture. The field trial findings can be beneficial to all farmers by helping to increase crop yields while decreasing energy, fuel and irrigation costs.
Pennsylvania’s Departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection have agreed to support further study, education and outreach efforts with The Rodale Institute® to better understand the positive effects that organic agriculture can have in reducing the impacts of excess atmospheric carbon on global warming.
Rodale's data and findings will be most helpful in the development of future greenhouse gas mitigation strategies that will be beneficial to Pennsylvania's citizens, its farmers and its business owners, said Secretary Kathleen McGinty of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection. I commend The Rodale Institute for their staying power in conducting this twenty plus-year study that has measured and documented the use of living soil as a sink for carbon dioxide.
Pennsylvania’s partnership with The Rodale Institute presents a one-of-a-kind opportunity, said Dennis Wolff, Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture.
Pennsylvania is fortunate to be at the center of this exciting research, Wolff said. We have thought for years that carbon sequestration and the development of a market for carbon credits offers new income opportunities for farmers even as they help the environment. Today’s research results demonstrate that potential beyond the shadow of a doubt. I am anxious to share this potential with the Commonwealth’s farmers.
The Rodale Institute® is a not-for-profit educational and research organization committed to sharing information globally about successful agricultural solutions to health and environmental problems. The Rodale Institute has worked for sixty years to establish and share knowledge about how to achieve a regenerative food system that renews environmental and human health, bringing to life the philosophy of J. I. Rodale, the founder, that "Healthy Soil = Health Food = Healthy People®." For more information about The Rodale Institute®, NewFarm.org and related programs, please visit www.newfarm.org, www.rodaleinstitute.org, www.kidsregen.org.