Science/Tech

Global Warming 2019: Revolutionary System Could Provide Solution

The impacts of food production on the environment have been dramatically growing across the world. Unsustainable land use and greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to rising temperatures and other effects of climate change.

Farming and livestock have already reduced biological life and natural carbon-sequestering capacity of soils, forests and ecosystems in many regions. But a new method of agroforestry and livestock feeding has been found effective to manage the impacts of food production process.

Farmers in Guanajuato, Mexico, found agave plants could help improve soil and pasture health and store atmospheric carbon above and below ground. The new system also shows promise to slow down or reverse climate change.

Agave works well with companion trees in improving quality of lands. When cultivated together with nitrogen-fixing trees like mesquite, huizache, desert ironwood, wattle and varieties of acacia, agave could lower amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and produce more above ground and below ground biomass, according to Mercola.

Experts said agaves alone can absorb the dry weight equivalent of 30 to 60 tons of CO2 per hectare per year. 

“As much as 40 percent of the land on earth is arid and semi-arid, largely in the tropics but also in the cool temperate zones up north,” Promode Kant, a climate scientist based in India, said. “And on almost half of these lands, with a minimum annual rainfall of about 250 mm and soils that are slightly refractory, the very valuable species of agave grows reasonably well.”

Agaves and their companion trees can grow both in arid and hot climates. They also require little to no irrigation to grow and thrive, which means these plants can be used by farmers in areas greatly affected by drought and very low rainfall. 

Arid and semi-arid lands cover 41.3 percent of the world’s land surface, according to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). That includes 66 percent of Africa, 40 percent of Asia, 24 percent of Europe and 15 percent of Latin America. 

The agave-based agroforestry can be used in these regions to green the drylands and store and sequester carbon. Farmers in Mexico call the system as “Modelo Zamarripa.”

It involves planting and intercropping 1,600 to 2,000 fast-growing species of agaves per hectare near preexisting deep-rooted, nitrogen-fixing tree species. The process takes three to seven years to see benefits.

It takes seven years to grow dense forest of agaves and mesquite. Farmers use the root stem of the agave to produce a distilled liquor called mescal, while its pups are transplanted back into the agroforestry system for biomass growth and carbon storage.

The farmers then take their sheep and goats across the ranch to consume fermented agave silage. They also use natural process of fermentation to make the plants’ indigestible compounds into digestible carbohydrates and fiber for animal feed.

agave Farmers in Mexico found agave plants could help improve soil health and store atmospheric carbon above and below ground, which both could reduce the contribution of food production to climate change. Pixabay

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