Can Regenerative Cattle Grazing Reverse Global Warming?

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Mike Hudak

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Shared May 24, 2019

Franzluebbers & Stuedemann’s 2009 article “Soil-profile organic carbon and total nitrogen during 12 years of pasture management in the Southern Piedmont USA” is examined within a broader environmental context than that considered by the authors. My analysis reveals that their grazing protocol yielding the fastest rate of soil-sequestered carbon also produces an amount of methane from enteric fermentation that far outweighs any reduction in atmospheric greenhouse gas resulting from carbon sequestered by the soil upon which their steers graze.

Comparing the findings of Franzluebbers & Stuedemann to those of Huntington reveals that if the highest objective is to reduce the greenhouse gas impacts of atmospheric carbon, then forestland should remain undisturbed. Forestland that has become unproductive cropland should be returned to forest if possible, not maintained as pasture. And because the heat-trapping properties of enteric fermentation-emitted methane will far outweigh any benefits associated with increased soil-sequestered C, the least desirable option would be to manage unproductive cropland as cattlegrazed pasture, even under the best grazing management.

A more detailed treatment of the issues presented in this video is found in Mike Hudak’s essay “Claims That Livestock Grazing Enhances Soil Sequestration of Atmospheric Carbon are Outweighed by Methane Emissions from Enteric Fermentation: A Closer Look at Franzluebbers and Stuedemann (2009)” available in both HTML and PDF format at http://www.mikehudak.com/Articles/Fra...

References cited in the video

Allen, D. E., D. S. Mendham, Bhupinderpal-Singh, A. Cowie, W. Wang, R. C. Dalal, and R. J. Raison, “Nitrous Oxide and Methane Emissions from Soil are Reduced Following Afforestation of Pasture Lands in Three Contrasting Climatic Zones,” Australian Journal of Soil Research 47(5) (2009): 443–58.

Eat Wild, http://www.eatwild.com/environment.html

Franzluebbers, A. J., and J. A. Stuedemann, “Soil-Profile Organic Carbon and Total Nitrogen During 12 Years of Pasture Management in the Southern Piedmont USA,” Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 129 (2009): 28–36.

Howarth, Robert W., “A Bridge to Nowhere: Methane Emissions and the Greenhouse Gas Footprint of Natural Gas,” Energy Science & Engineering, (2014) doi:10.1002/ese3.35, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10...

Huntington, Thomas G., “Carbon Sequestration in an Aggrading Forest Ecosystem in the Southeastern USA,” Soil Science Society of America Journal 59(5) (1995): 1459–67.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, 714, Table 8.7, https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/

Johnson, K. A., and D. E. Johnson, “Methane Emissions from Cattle,” Journal of Animal Science 73(8) (1995): 2483–92.

O’Brien, Dennis, “Cattle Pastures May Improve Soil Quality,” Agricultural Research (March 2011), http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/ar/archive...

Tang, Shiming, Chengjie Wang, Andreas Wilkes, Pei Zhou, Yuanyuan Jiang, Guodong Han, Mengli Zhao, Ding Huang, and Philipp Schönbach. “Contribution of Grazing to Soil Atmospheric CH4 Exchange During the Growing Season in a Continental Steppe,” Atmospheric Environment 67 (2013): 170–76.

United States Environmental Protection Agency, “Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator—Calculations and References,” https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse...

Wang, Xiaoya, Yingjun Zhang, Ding Huang, Zhiqiang Li, and Xiaoqing Zhang. “Methane Uptake and Emissions in a Typical Steppe Grazing System during the Grazing Season,” Atmospheric Environment 105 (2015): 14–21.



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