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Strategic farming practices could help mitigate global warming
Date:1/18/2009

Researchers say that strategic farming practices might be part of the solution for curbing global warming. According to calculations reported online on 15 January in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, by planting crop varieties that better reflect sunlight back out to space, summertime temperatures could be reduced by more than one degree Celsius throughout much of central North America and mid-latitude Eurasia. That reduction is equivalent to seasonally offsetting about 20 percent of regional warming due to the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere expected by the end of this century.

The researchers emphasized that such a plan could be achieved without disrupting food production, either in terms of yield or the types of crops grown.

" We propose choosing between different varieties of strains of the same crop species in order to maximize solar reflectivity rather than changing crop type, although the latter could also produce climatic benefits," said Andy Ridgwell of the University of Bristol. "We see this as akin to the choices that are regularly made for other properties of a crop, such as choosing wheat varieties more suited for bread and biscuit making rather than pastry and cakes, for instance."

Society has so far remained unwilling to make the drastic reductions in fossil fuel use needed to cut carbon dioxide emissions, Ridgwell explained. Therefore, scientists are looking for alternatives that might help avert "dangerous" climate change. One set of strategies, called "geoengineering," envisages the creation of novel technological devices that will act as artificial trees to extract carbon dioxide from the air and planetary-scale engineering schemes to manipulate the earth's energy budgetfor instance, injecting reflective aerosols into the atmosphere or constructing a sunshade in space.

" Such schemes would generally be fantastically expensive and require a close cooperation and agreement glo
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Contact: Cathleen Genova
cgenova@cell.com
617-397-2802
Cell Press
Source:Eurekalert

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