Archive for Wednesday, December 6, 2000

Carbon dioxide promoted as cash crop

December 6, 2000

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— Midwestern farmers should begin thinking now about their possible role in an anti-pollution method that is receiving increasing attention, Sen. Sam Brownback told an audience at Kansas State University.

Carbon sequestration the technical term for taking excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and storing it is thought by some scientists to be a plausible way of containing worldwide warming trends.

Kansas State is one of nine universities where researchers are studying how farming methods affect the absorption of carbon dioxide by soil. Brownback's fellow Kansas Republican, Sen. Pat Roberts, helped secure funding for the research.

Brownback has introduced a bill that would reward landowners for practices that help pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it in soil. Those methods include keeping acreage out of production and using low-till or no-till farming that leaves some plants in place.

But at some point, the economics of the marketplace the supply of carbon-storing soil and the demand for it by businesses that produce the gas will come into play, Brownback said Monday at a Kansas State conference on the topic.

"I think it's important that agriculture get involved in this discussion now," he said.

Staying on the sidelines means farmers will be left behind and caught in governmental regulation, he said.

He said he would rather that farmers negotiate on the open market with companies willing to pay them to keep soil in a carbon-absorbing condition.

Charles Rice, a Kansas State professor of agronomy and one of the organizers of the conference, said the Midwest has high-carbon soils that have been mined over the generations.

"I guess on the positive side, this means these soils have the high potential to store carbon," he said.

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