Plowing tractor exhaust into the field, eliminating fertilizer costs
A wheat farmer in Australia has eliminated adding fertilizer to his crop by the simple process of injecting the cooled diesel exhaust of his modified tractor into the ground when the wheat is being sown. In doing so he eliminates releasing carbon into the atmosphere and at the same time saves himself up to $500,000 (AUD) that would have been required to fertilize his 3,900 hectares in the traditional way. Yet his crop yields over the last two years have been at least on par with his best yields since 2001. The technique was developed by a Canadian, Gary Lewis of Bio Agtive, and is currently in trial at 100 farms around the world.
Early field testing being done by Canadian, Gary Lewis of Bio Agtive
A battle is raging beneath the bobbing heads of Ian Linklater’s wheat crop in the red, loamy soils of Gol Gol.
In this break-your-heart farming land near the Murray River, north of Mildura, the enemies are drought, nutrient depletion, salt and rising farming costs.
The battle’s unlikely heroes are Mr Linklater and his 400-horsepower, oxygen-sucking, diesel-guzzling, carbon-spewing tractor.
International debate rages over the cost and plausibility of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power stations by pumping carbon underground.
But Mr Linklater is literally plowing ahead, injecting his tractor’s fossil fuel exhaust fumes directly into the ground, where they enhance the biochemical interaction between plants and soil microbes. And it seems his home-grown version of carbon sequestration, introduced in 2007, is getting results, with this year’s crop, aided by better rainfall, his best since 2001.
“It might not seem that emissions from one tractor could do a lot, but per hectare it emits 1100 kilos of carbon,” Mr Linklater says.
Adapting methods developed by Canadian farmer Gary Lewis, of BioAgtive Technologies, Mr Linklater spent $20,000 customising equipment that cools the tractor’s fumes to 30 degrees then expels them into the soil as gas fertilizer when he sows his crop.
His trials, which are being replicated in Canada, Britain and South Africa, are gaining global attention and are now the focus of scientific research. ”When I heard about it, I listened and the science of it seemed to make sense, but with fertilizer costs at about $1200 to $1500 a ton, the economics of it got me into gear,” Mr Linklater says.
At today’s prices it would have cost him $500,000 in phosphorous and nitrogen fertilisers to prepare 3900 hectares for planting. But in the two years since he and his sons began trialling the new technique, no fertiliser has been applied. The saving is enough to wipe a healthy chunk off the debt that he, like many drought-stricken farmers, has racked up through years of meagre rain and below-break-even wheat prices.
Political debate continues over inclusion of agriculture in Australia’s emissions trading scheme, but Mr Linklater says farmers have nothing to fear from such a scheme. ”It’s coming anyway, regardless of what happens in Australia. Governments around the world are moving ahead with carbon taxes and we will all have to pay.”
The Federal Opposition has proposed amendments permanently removing agriculture’s methane emissions from an emissions trading scheme while allowing farmers to make money through carbon credits earned from replanting trees and storing carbon in the soil.
The Government has delayed a decision on agriculture, which accounts for 18 per cent of the nation’s greenhouse gases, until 2013.”
Via The Age