International fair "4x1000" initiative: real farmers experiences for living soils and carbon sequestration
Maria Cecilia Gines
Maria Beatriz Pilou Giraudo
Soils are the first land carbon reservoir, and therefore, key allies in the fight against climate change and the reduction of GHG emissions. Agriculture needs soils to produce food and to ensure food security but, like any productive activity, it contributes to the emission of GHGs. However, not all forms of agriculture are the same. Conservation Agriculture (CA) is based on the following pillars: 1) no soil disturbance, 2) use of cover crops, and 3) crop rotation.
CA is capable of 1) reducing carbon emissions, 2) reducing 90% of soil erosion, 3) improving soil quality and organic matter, 4) enhancing biodiversity, 5) reducing 15-50% of energy consumption and 60% of fuel consumption, 6) increasing yields and lowering costs of sowing. Therefore, CA combines the profitability of agricultural production with sustainability.
To provide such benefits, sustainable ways of agriculture such as CA need another fundamental ally: "the farmers’ experience". Farmers know the soil best, as they walk and cultivate it every day. They are aware of the limitations and needs of each environment to achieve their full potential.
This is precisely the kind of exchange that we promote from the GCAN (Global Conservation Agriculture Network) at a global level. Nevertheless, we are convinced that there are no universal recipes: an agriculture capable of guaranteeing food security and mitigating climate change must be built at the grassroots level, from the ground up.
In Argentina, CA is implemented in over 90% of agricultural surface. From our organization AAPRESID (Argentine No-Till Farmers Association), we not only promote the adoption of No-Till Systems, but also the permanent exchange between groups of farmers of different regions holding meetings to share their experience and needs. The farmers within these groups identify the common problems and necessities: declining soil fertility, wind or water erosion, water surpluses due to increasingly frequent rains, biodiversity loss due to monoculture, yields fall and instability, etc.
In this context, AAPRESID brings scientists and researchers together to work with farmers in each region to develop solutions, knowledge, and adapted technologies. It also involves companies that provide their inputs and services. In this collaborative process, the farmers are those in charge of innovation: they define the research lines, the needs for human resources and the main action strategies. This leading role of farmers is key for building the most suitable and sustainable agricultural system appropriate for each situation, and for ensuring the adoption of innovation and its dissemination among peers.
At AAPRESID, we also began to measure indicators that allow us to quantify the evolution of these improvements in production systems through time. Today, we are able to measure how much carbon our soils are sequestering, how much we are reducing the application of phytosanitary products, and how much we are improving water quality. Today, food produced using sustainable methods can reach and be recognized by customers around the world thanks to our sustainable food certifications.
This virtuous cycle, PRODUCER + SCIENCE + ENTERPRISE, is leading us today to achieve always living and always green systems. We see that the longer periods our soils are covered with growing crops and roots, the more carbon they are sequestering and the less GHG emissions we are producing.
Together with science, our farmers can demonstrate that this process is thanks to the fact that an ‘always green agriculture’ maintains uninterrupted the activity of the photosynthetic machinery - that fixes CO2 - and encourages the action of soil microorganisms which fix this CO2 as organic C to become part of soil reserve.
Through these “greener” models, we have been able to halve the number of phytosanitary applications, to reduce the environmental impact associated with herbicides use by 60% and the use of chemical fertilizers by 20%, to increase water use efficiency and to reduce flooding risks by 40%.
This agricultural method implemented in Argentina for years is carried out without losing a prospective vision and fostering the exchange between the actors of the agricultural sector about the challenges of tomorrow.
Understanding these steps is key to encourage these productive systems to grow on a larger scale:
- identifying producers with leadership capacity, with a systemic perspective and a vision that exceeds the limits of their field and projects,
- fostering mutual exchange and confidence to encourage farmers to adapt their productive systems to the peculiarities of each environment, reality, and culture,
- calling on experts without losing the prominent role of farmers to start moving towards a sustainable agriculture able to provide high quality food, fibers, and energy.
In our region, we have more than 30 years of experience in these collaborative innovation processes. The first innovation vector were No-Till Systems. Today, the biggest challenge is to spread this approach all over the world, to call on all farmers to take the chance to be protagonists in this fight against climate change.
Let us work on building this global network, there is no time for more rhetoric!
If you would like to LEARN MORE about the experience of farmers and about valuable inputs related to sustainable food production and soil health, please check out these incredible presentations that took place during AAPRESID's XXVIII Annual Congress in 2020:
- Positioning the voice of producers in the global scenario: the goal of the Global Farmer Network - Mary Boote https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8tBjgs_oco&ab_channel=Aapresid
- The Importance of Soil in the Future of Humanity - Rattan Lal https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_nttobF-80&ab_channel=Aapresid
- Growing a Revolution: devolviéndole la vida a los suelos - David Montgomery https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyadyuBftOE&ab_channel=Aapresid
- Blue Economy: opportunities for Argentina - Gunter Pauli https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HB1Lwl29mw8&ab_channel=Aapresid
- Multi species cover crops - Steve Groff https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GUq7xldGns&ab_channel=Aapresid
- Green Fields Living Soils, the global challenge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReqVdGyakOw&t=4488s&ab_channel=Aapresid
- Global challenges in sustainable food production https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u92huXUABgE&ab_channel=Aapresid
You are welcome to also visit our partner's GCAN - APAD virtual Stand 040 for more insights on Conservation Agriculture
Clients / Target group
Farmers, Farmers organizations, Policy makers, Environmental NGOs and CSOs, Civil society, Consumers, Scientific and academic community
Established collaborations and partnerships
- European Conservation Agriculture Federation, ECAF
- Association pour la Promotion d'une Agriculture Durable, APAD
- African Conservation Tillage Network, ACT
- South Asian Conservation Agriculture Network, SACAN
- Conservation Tillage Research Centre, CTRC (China)
- Conservation Agriculture Australia
- Western Australian No-Tillage Farmers Association
- Confederation of American Associations for the Production of Sustainable Agriculture, CAAPAS
- Fundação Agrisus (Brazil)
- Federação Brasileira de Plantio Direto e Irrigação (Brazil)
- Federación Paraguaya de Siembra Directa para una Agricultura Sustentable, FEPASIDIAS (Paraguay)
- Asociación Uruguaya de Siembra Directa, AUSID (Uruguay)
- Asociación Argentina de Productores en Siembra Directa, AAPRESID (Argentina)
- Sequoia Farm Foundation (USA)
Desired collaborations and partnerships
It is essential to include the voice of farmers in the global discussion on agriculture, to be leveraged in the development of sound and sustainable public policy decisions.
Time for discussion (Video Chat)
During the indicated periods, one of the team members is available for a chat.
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