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Increased Photosynthetic Capacity Reverses Global Warming
Increased Photosynthetic Capacity Reverses Global Warming
by Christine Jones, PhD
2 July 2007

The process of Global Warming

It is well documented that loss of perennial groundcover is causing increased desertification across the African, Indian, Asian, North American, South American and Australian continents.

Light energy from the sun is converted to heat energy when it makes contact with bare ground.

Due to the rapidly expanding areas of unprotected topsoil on most major land masses, excessive heat energy is radiated back into the atmosphere.

Bare ground and low levels of groundcover also result in declining soil structure and reduced soil water holding capacity. Lower soil moisture retention results in elevated levels of atmospheric water vapour.

The atmospheric water vapour serves as a trap for the heat radiated from bare ground.

Since the beginning of the 'industrialised agriculture' era, in which billions of hectares of land around the world have been laid bare for long periods of time, water vapour has been the 'man-made greenhouse gas' that has increased to the greatest extent. This water vapour does not necessarily form clouds.

Amazing Carbon
Leaving it better than we found it.

Photosynthesis and the step-wise CO2 curve

Light energy intercepted by green leaves (crops, grasses, trees) is converted to biochemical energy through photosynthesis. This is a cooling process. Photosynthesis is a two-step endothermic reaction that removes CO2 from the atmosphere and releases oxygen.

There are significant, and consistent, annual fluctuations in global CO2 levels.

When the Northern Hemisphere is in the dormant winter phase, and the Southern Hemisphere in the hot summer phase, levels of green groundcover are low in Eastern and Western Europe, Northern Asia, Canada, North and South America, non-monsoonal Africa and the southern half of Australia.

Photosynthetic capacity is reduced and global CO2 levels rapidly rise.

When the Northern Hemisphere is in the summer phase with green crops, green pastures and green deciduous trees - and the winter-rainfall areas of the Southern Hemisphere are also green due to winter crops and winter-active annual pastures, photosynthetic capacity is high and global CO2 levels rapidly fall.

This pattern is repeated every year.

Atmospheric carbon fixed as glucose in green leaves is transformed to a wide variety of carbon compounds, some of which are used for metabolism and the formation of plant structural materials - with the remainder translocated to the roots and exuded into soil to form a microbial bridge to enhance the bio-availability of nutrients. Under appropriate conditions, a portion of the carbon exuded from the rhizosphere undergoes polymerisation to form high molecular weight humic compounds which are relatively resistant to decomposition.

If a significant proportion of the world's land mass was 'Yearlong Green' due to changed farming practices, CO2 levels would fall as atmospheric CO2 became safely sequestered in plant material and highly complex soil carbon pools. Plants and soils would retain higher levels of moisture. These factors would enhance biological activity in the terrestrial biosphere and improve the productivity of agricultural land. Furthermore, actively growing green groundcover increases the incidence of rainfall.

Improved groundcover and increased photosynthetic capacity across the globe would reduce the 'Global Warming Effect' and reverse Climate Change. The slope of the 'atmospheric CO2 curve' would be step-wise downwards rather than step-wise upwards.

Industrialised Agriculture vs the Industrial Revolution

Decreased soil carbon levels have been recorded worldwide under most current broadacre cropping and grazing regimes. This soil carbon has been emitted to the atmosphere.

It is sobering to compare the CO2 emissions from soil with those from the burning of fossil fuels. Dr Rattan Lal, Professor of Soil Science at Ohio State University and Director, Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, USA, has calculated that 476 Gt of carbon has been emitted from farmland soils due to inappropriate farming and grazing practices, compared with 270 Gt emitted from over 150 years of burning of fossil fuels.

These trends can be reversed by increasing the photosynthetic capacity of the landscape through the adoption of Yearlong Green Farming (YGF) techniques.

reen Farming

Yearlong Green Farming (YGF)

YGF is any process, technique or practice that turns bare soil into soil covered with green plants for most of the year. Yearlong Green Farming increases the quality, quantity and perenniality of green groundcover in broadacre cropping, horticultural, silva-pastoral and grazing enterprises. YGF practices include (but are not limited to) pasture cropping, over-cropping, cover-cropping, use of microbial stimulants and compost teas, green manuring, alley farming and planned grazing. Livestock are an important component of YGF. Grasslands and grazers have co-evolved for over 20 million years and are mutually beneficial if managed appropriately.

Yearlong Green Farming
*  significantly reduces the amount of incoming light energy converted to heat energy
*  significantly reduces the amount of heat radiated from the earth's surface and trapped in the atmosphere
*  significantly reduces evaporation (which commonly accounts for around 80% of the water-balance equation), retaining soil moisture that would otherwise form atmospheric water vapour
*  converts incoming light energy to biochemical energy through photosynthesis
*  uses CO2 from the atmosphere to fuel biological processes and build organic carbon in soils

Points to note

*  grasslands and grassy woodlands were the major vegetation type over much of the African, North American and Australian continents prior to European colonisation

*  every 2.7 tonnes of carbon sequestered in soil as a result of the photosynthetic process removes 10 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere (conversely every 2.7 tonnes of carbon lost from soil adds 10 tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere)

*  more soil carbon is sequestered in grassland ecosystems than in any other type of vegetative cover

*  increased soil carbon levels enhance nutrient density in plants, improving the immune response and reversing symptoms of trace element deficiencies (such as cancer) in livestock and people

*  in countries where agricultural production is falling or erratic, YGF techniques enhance the quality, quantity and reliability of supply of basic food requirements

Incentive for change

YGF techniques are available worldwide but are not widely adopted due to lack of appropriate information. Incentive payments based on percentage green cover, calculated on an annual basis, would provide a catalyst for change. Levels of green cover could be remotely sensed and recorded at regular intervals (eg monthly) using satellite imagery. An overlay of spot testing of soil carbon and soil moisture levels would indicate the quantity of atmospheric CO2 sequestered and atmospheric water vapour retained in soil. A simple incentive scheme of this nature may prove easier to manage and have broader application than intensive testing for soil carbon, particularly in countries where the infrastructure and resources for scientific research and development are limited.

The 'greening of a brown land' would increase soil carbon sequestration, increase soil moisture retention, reduce heat radiation and reduce the concentration of both CO2 and water vapour in the atmosphere. These factors would reverse the 'Global Warming Effect'. As a bonus, the adoption of Yearlong Green Farming techniques would markedly improve the productivity agricultural land.

Dr Christine Jones


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