Carbon Farming for Biosequestration: Perennial cropping systems sequester 1.6-10 times the carbon at 2-9 times the rates of annual and grazing systems

Authors: Rafter Ferguson*, Haverford College, Eric Toensmeier, Senior Research Fellow, Project Drawdown. Lecturer, Yale University.
Topics: Land Use, Development, Environment
Keywords: climate mitigation, biosequestration, agroforestry, perennial cropping systems
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


There is broad agreement that efforts to mitigate climate change must include changes to agriculture, forestry, and other land uses, which are collectively responsible for 24% of anthropogenic emissions. Given the urgency of climate change, it is imperative that strategies for agricultural biosequestration are centered on the agricultural practices with the greatest potential impact on agricultural and land-use sectors. We synthesize synthesizes existing literature, with a focus on carbon sequestration rates and stocks per hectare, and demonstrate the need to prioritize agroforestry and perennial cropping systems (AFPC) in the global conversation on agricultural sequestration. Less than 1% of global agricultural climate finance in 2012 went to agroforestry and perennial crops, despite the fact that AFPC typically far exceed the sequestration of annual cropping and grazing systems (ACG) by either rate and or total stock, AFPCs which integrate trees into ACGs sequester carbon at 2-9 times the rate of improved ACG alone. AFPC that focus on fully perennial cropping systems show further gains in sequestration: conversion of cropland to orchards sequesters 3.5 Mg/ha-1/yr-1, while multistrata agroforestry systems sequester 2.0-9.0 Mg/ha-1/yr-1. AFPC also accumulate 1.6-10 times the soil carbon stocks over their lifetime as compared to ACG. AFPCs are already an important subset of global agriculture, with at least 10% tree cover on 43% of the world’s agricultural land, including 124 Mha of perennial crops. We must place these practices at the center of global agricultural mitigation strategies.

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