Conservation Agriculture would compensate for 100% of CO emissions from agriculture in Spain and prevent erosion produced by torrential rains

According to the study "Benefits of Conservation Agriculture in a climate change environment".

The Spanish Association for Conservation Agriculture. Living Soils (AEACSV) presented in Madrid on the 18th May, the study "Benefits of Conservation Agriculture in a climate change environment", which analyzes the positive impact that the Conservation Agriculture, agricultural technique focused on avoiding soil tillage and the preservation of groundcovers, has on the environment and agriculture in a period of climate change. The presentation was attended by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, through Carlos Cabanas, General Secretary of Agriculture and Food and D. Fernando Miranda Sotillos, General Director of Productions and Agricultural Markets, as well as Jesus Gil Ribes, and Rafael Espejo, president and vice president respectively of the AEAC.SV.

The generalization of this agricultural practice, based on no-tillage, the maintenance of the soil with a permanent protective cover as well as the rotation and diversification of crops, can compensate for 112% of CO2 emissions in Spanish agriculture. This aspect is especially relevant, taking into account that 9% of the greenhouse gases emitted by the EU come from agriculture.

The Mediterranean agricultural regions will be especially affected by the increase in temperatures and the decrease in rainfall, which will occur more and more in a torrential way. This will also affect the area of land suitable for cultivation, due to the consequences that these phenomena entail such as the increase in erosion and the loss of soil quality. In order to understand the impact of climate on agriculture, it is important to know that climatic variability affects between 32% and 39% the variability in agricultural yield.

Since the Conservation Agriculture avoids tillage, certain tools are applied in order to sow in appropriate conditions with the presence of groundcovers. Thus, machinery such as no-till seed drills and their accessories, or plant protection products such as glyphosate to control weeds and prepare the planting bed, are essential.

Unlike the conventional farming, which has contributed, among other things, to the fact that currently 16% of the European surface is affected by water erosion, according to the report presented by the AEAC.SV, Conservation Agriculture contributes to carbon sequestration in the soil while favoring biodiversity in agrarian ecosystems. In addition, the maintenance of groundcovers, characteristic of the Conservation Agriculture, allows to stop soil erosion, and it is able to reduce soil losses up to 90%, depending on the covered surface.

According to Jesús Gil Ribes, president of the AEAC.SV., "these systems based on the reduction in tillage have led to a greater sequestration of carbon in the soil, what improves its structure, fertility and water storage capacity in the ground, avoiding its degradation, while mitigating the climatic change ". In Spain, in terms of CO2, the amount of sequestration for the area managed by conservation agriculture techniques is more than 9 million tons of CO2 per year, with a fixing potential close to 53 million tons of CO2. Compared to conventional tillage, Conservation Agriculture uses energy more efficiently, taking into account that this agricultural system can reach on average, an energy saving of 20%, reaching up to 50%, depending on the region and the crop, and with the consequent positive impact on the carbon footprint of agricultural activity.

Regarding its economic benefits, the study indicates that Conservation Agriculture increases the competitiveness of farms by reducing costs and improving the profitability of crops.

The adoption of agricultural practices such as Conservation Agriculture, an alternative to intensive soil tillage, has contributed to greater control of soil erosion, an increase in organic matter and a reduction in CO2 emissions, which is another step towards achieving the commitments of international agreements, such as the COP21 of Paris 2015 and the Strategy 4 per 1000 that consider it to be a key factor to stop climate change.

After the presentation of the report, a debate took place, moderated by Pablo Rodríguez Pinilla, presenter of the Onda Agraria radio program, which included Fernando Miranda, Miguel Barnuevo, farmer from Castilla la Mancha and José Carlos Caballero Rubiato, National Director of the Technical Services of ASAJA, and in which the vision of the Administration, the farmer and the Agricultural Professional Associations was provided on the advisability of the adoption of agricultural practices that fight against climate change and the possible tools to favor their implementation.

Finally, Rafael Espejo Serrano, vice president of the AEAC.SV and professor at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, proceeded to closing the act, claiming the importance of Conservation Agriculture for the soil, and its relevance when fixing the Atmospheric carbon, highlighting the role it can have when designing low carbon production systems.

The full report can be downloaded on: