Horticulture will play a role in climate change mitigation

13 Dec 2018


Recently, a number of reports about climate change mitigations have been released, including one from Motu called Land-use Change as a Mitigation Option for Climate Change.  In my view, this report is required reading for the rural sector.  It simply states in its conclusion:

Achieving the proposed 2050 target seems possible even with no additional on-farm mitigation through new technology. If however this is achieved without a structural shift toward horticulture, significant new mitigation technology, or establishment of significant permanent forests, these reductions will be difficult to sustain beyond 2050 because the potential for forestry expansion is ultimately limited. It seems likely that the 2030 target will be harder to meet because of the speed of change required. (Page 12)

The Motu report is part of a larger report prepared by the Biological Emissions Reference Group.

The 2050 low ambition target is a 25% reduction by 2050, and the high ambition target is 50% by 2050, of the 2005 gross biological emissions from agriculture.

In summary, here are some of the key points about horticulture from these reports:

- Emissions can be reduced by 10% by changing farm management.

- Reductions in methane greater than 10% will require land use change for some land, moving from pastoral agriculture into either horticulture, forestry or native bush.

- Trees do not take up methane, so management and land use changes are required for reductions greater than 10%.

- Horticulture is a profitable alternative land use and produces more food on a per hectare basis compared with other types of farming.

- Horticulture and cropping occupy a small area of land currently, but there is a much larger area of land that is suitable for horticulture and arable crops in New Zealand.

If land use change is to occur (as is noted in the Motu report on page 13), there will need to be companion policies enabling land suitable for horticulture to be developed.  As well as the soil type being an important factor, allocation of sufficient water and nutrient allocations are vital for sustainable production of quality produce.  Application of technology and access to skilled workers is also a requirement.  With production of a quality product, the focus after domestic New Zealand supply will need to be on expert marketing in our offshore markets to ensure a premium return.  All of this possible, but it will require the government and the rural sector to work constructively together to achieve the changes that are required to meet our commitment to the Paris agreement.

- Mike Chapman, CEO