Rural round-up

13/10/2020

Vegetation grown on farms offsets agricultural emissions

Farmers are welcoming an independent study which has found New Zealand’s sheep and beef farms are already close to being carbon neutral.

The study, led by Dr Bradley Case at the Auckland University of Technology, estimated the woody vegetation on farms was offsetting between 63% and 118% of their on-farm agricultural emissions.

If the mid-point in the report’s range was used, on average the woody vegetation on sheep and beef farms was absorbing about 90% of these emissions.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand chief executive Sam McIvor said absolute greenhouse gas emissions from New Zealand sheep and beef production have reduced by 30% since 1990.

“This research shows that of the remaining emissions, the vast majority are being offset by the trees on our farms and New Zealand sheep and beef farmers are well on the way to being carbon neutral by 2050. . . .

Oxford University researchers are pushing for a new method of measuring greenhouse gas emissions and their warming impact

Myles Allen, Ph.D., a professor of Geosystem Science and head of the Climate Dynamics Group at Oxford Martin, University of Oxford, has a beef with how the impact of methane emissions on global warming is wrongly calculated — and then misconstrued to blame livestock for climate change.

He and his Oxford Martin colleagues have proposed a new metric called GWP* (global warming potential – star), which focuses on the warming effects of the different gases, rather than their rate of emissions. The current mischaracterization of methane’s impact on warming, Allen told The Daily Churn, ignores the “white elephant” in the room — fossil fuel-based carbon dioxide emissions. This in turn could lead to misguided policies that inaccurately target animal agriculture.

“If we all turn vegetarian, but we don’t do anything about fossil fuel emissions, in five years we’ll be in exactly the same position we were before,” Allen says of rising global temperatures. But “we’re vegetarians.” . . .

Southland farmer makes finals – Sally Rae:

Helping people is a big part of what makes Bernadette Hunt “tick”.

Mrs Hunt, a Chatton farmer and vice-president of Southland Federated Farmers, is a finalist in the primary industry leadership award in this year’s Primary Industries New Zealand awards which will be announced at a function in Wellington on November 23.

Balancing farming, family — she and her husband Alistair have two primary school-aged daughters — and rural advocacy was a “real juggle” and there were certainly times when the balance was not right.

However, she was a firm believer in volunteering — “that’s what makes communities tick” — and also role modelling that to her own children. . . .

Title ton: shearer celebrates milestone :

A South Canterbury farmer has become the first person in the world to win 100 blade-shearing finals. 

Tony Dobbs won the open blades title at the Waimate Shears Spring Championships last night, a competition he first competed at in 1979.

Dobbs won the title by shearing four sheep in 14 minutes and 48 seconds.

He beat the reigning individual world champion Allan Oldfield, who is also from South Canterbury. . . 

Feet first :

Draining abscesses on cows hoofs may be a mucky job but Johan Buys loves it.

“When I get rid of that I can get rid of the pain,” he says.

Johan is known as ‘The Hoofman’ and spends his days tending cows’ hoofs, curing lameness.

He says it’s hugely satisfying watching a cow that limped in for treatment, leave for the paddock pain-free. . . 

Wairarapa sweeps 2020 Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards, 2020 best year yet:

Wairarapa Olive Oil makers have swept the annual NZ Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards, winning four of the five major awards for Olive Oil Excellence, with the region’s growers also taking home 58 medals.

Beginning in 2020, the New Zealand Olive Oil Awards recognise excellence in NZ Extra Virgin Olive Oils (NZ EVOO). This year’s winners were announced tonight at the Olives NZ 2020 Award Ceremony.

Four Wairarapa Olive Growers received top awards: . . 


NZ sheep & beef farms nearly carbon neutral

09/10/2020

Science backs claims of New Zealand farming’s low emissions:

Independent research has found New Zealand’s sheep and beef farms are already close to being carbon neutral and strengthens calls for the formal recognition of on-farm sequestration.

The study led by Dr Bradley Case at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) estimates the woody vegetation on New Zealand sheep and beef farms is offsetting between 63 percent and 118 percent of their on-farm agricultural emissions.

If the mid-point in the report’s range is used, on average the woody vegetation on sheep and beef farms is absorbing about 90 percent of these emissions.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand CEO Sam McIvor says absolute greenhouse gas emissions from New Zealand sheep and beef production have reduced by 30 percent since 1990.

“This research shows that of the remaining emissions, the vast majority are being offset by the trees on our farms and New Zealand sheep and beef farmers are well on the way to being carbon neutral by 2050.”

The study reinforces the importance of farmers getting formal recognition for the sequestration happening on their farms, says Mr McIvor.

“Currently, most vegetation on sheep and beef farms does not qualify for inclusion in the ETS because it does not meet the definition of a forest. If farmers are to face a price for agricultural emissions, it’s only fair they get credit for their sequestration. 

Farmers are liable for their animals’ emissions but get no credit for trees on their farms – that’s neither fair nor science-based.

“The focus to date on livestock’s climate change contribution has been on emissions, rather than on sequestration. But with any product it makes sense to consider the whole business – in this case, taking a whole of farm approach.

“The study should also reassure consumers that New Zealand beef and lamb is among the most sustainable in the world, and our farmers are making a significant contribution to addressing on-farm agricultural emissions.

“These findings should be of immense pride for New Zealand’s sheep and beef farmers, the 92,000 people employed in what is New Zealand’s largest manufacturing sector, and all New Zealanders.”

Dr Bradley Case, Senior Lecturer in GIS and Remote Sensing in the Applied Ecology Department, School of Science at AUT, said there is a strong case for farmers to get credit for the sequestration happening on their farms.

“This is an integral part of He Waka Eke Noa, the regulatory framework that industry and government are currently developing to manage agricultural emissions and recognise on-farm sequestration.

“This research not only builds understanding of the overall greenhouse gas contribution of the sheep and beef sector, but will help inform the development of policy, and further reinforce the outstanding biodiversity on sheep and beef farms.”  

According to the AUT report, the woody vegetation is made up of 1.52 million hectares of native forest and 0.48 million hectares of exotic vegetation.

In addition to sequestering carbon, this vegetation delivers wider benefits for New Zealand’s biodiversity and freshwater ecosystems. 

“The report identifies where sheep and beef farmers can focus on to continue to build the native vegetation and biodiversity on their farms,” says Dr Case.

“The regional maps in the research indicate where management is most needed to ensure mature/old growth forests are managed to prevent them becoming sources of atmospheric carbon.”

Importantly, the net carbon emissions estimation assumed a net-neutral rate for soil sequestration so the amount of sequestration happening could be even greater.

“While there is fairly good information about soil carbon stocks, there is not good data about yearly changes in soil sequestration and the science on this is still in development.”

About the research

The AUT research was commissioned by B+LNZ. The report was written by Dr Bradley Case and Catherine Ryan and was peer reviewed by Dr Fiona Carswell, Chief Scientist, Manaaki Whenua -Landcare Research and Dr Adam Forbes, Senior Ecologist, Forbes Ecology, Research Associate and New Zealand School of Forestry, University of Canterbury.

Further points to note

The study has not quantified the sequestration taking place on dairy farms, but the findings are helpful for the dairy farmers who do have sequestration happening on their farms and would like to get credit for this. The beef emissions figure in the research includes an allocation for dairy-beef.

The report uses GWP100, because this is the metric used internationally to compare greenhouse gases and it allows researchers to estimate emissions and subtract sequestration on the same basis. 

B+LNZ has commissioned research by AgResearch to use this study to calculate a net carbon footprint for New Zealand beef and lamb and to investigate developing a carbon footprint using GWP*, a metric that new research indicates can better reflect the warming impact of different gases on the globe because of the way it accounts for short-lived emissions such as methane. . . 

New Zealand farmers are the most efficient producers of beef and lamb in the world.

This research adds to our environmental credentials by showing that almost all emissions from our stock are off-set by carbon sequestration on farms.

You can read the summary report here.

You can read the full report here.


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