Study shows reducing food production could trim greenhouse gas emissions

The United Kingdom government wants to reduce 80 percent of greenhouse gases by 2050 and research has shown that sparing land from food production to balance greenhouse gas emissions could have a significantly positive impact.

A habitat with more forestry could restore wet peatland, causing the habitats to act as a carbon "sink" – sucking in and storing carbon, thereby reducing greenhouse gases. The wild life in the area would also be positively impacted because they would have better places to live and water to drink.

"Land is a source of greenhouse gases if it is used to farm fertilizer-hungry crops or methane-producing cattle, or it can be a sink for greenhouse gases -- through sequestration," senior author Andrew Balmford, from Cambridge University's Department of Zoology, said. "If we increase woodland and wetland, those lands will be storing carbon in trees, photosynthesising it in reeds, and shunting it down into soils. We estimate that by actively increasing farm yields, the U.K. can reduce the amount of land that is a source of greenhouse gases, increase the 'sink,' and sequester enough carbon to hit national emission reduction targets for the agriculture industry by 2050."

The study suggested breeding programs to help farmers understand which plants are better at capturing soil nutrients, sunlight and water, and to produce more efficient animals that produce less methane.

"The current findings show the value of land sparing for reducing greenhouse gases," study co-author Toby Bruce from Rothamsted Research, said. "To allow this, productivity needs to increase on the remaining land. For example, by minimizing crop losses to pests, weeds and diseases or by improving crop nutrition."

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