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06/24/2009 09:50 AM     print story email story  

Experimental Farm Increases Ecosystem Services - Study News

An experimental farm in Denmark dedicating 10% of its crop to biofuels feedstock was able to offset its total energy needs, according to a new study. 

A combined food and energy program began at the farm in 1995 in which 45% of the land was used to grow food crops, 45% was used to grow pasture fodder, and 10% was dedicated to biofuels in the form of fast-growing trees. Both organic and sustainable farming methods were applied; the system produced more energy in the form of renewable biomass than was used in the production of the food and fodder.

A study published in the June 2009 issue of AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment details the approach, which is said to be superior to conventional farming in that it produces food and energy sustainably and increases ecosystem services (ES), such as water supply, soil formation, and pollination.

The measured value of the program’s ES was found to exceed that associated with conventional farming methods. The researchers obtained similar results when they estimated the value of ES in other European Union countries. Furthermore, they found that the value of ES was greater than the amount of money spent on conventional farming subsidies.

Agro-ecosystems cover about one third of the Earth’s land surface and are responsible for producing food, energy, and ES. Poor agricultural practices have contributed to a decline in ES, which are crucial to the health of the planet and the existence of its inhabitants. There has been a call worldwide to address this problem.

The in-depth, long-term study offers a way to undo some of the damage caused by harmful, unsustainable agricultural systems, the report said. The new system will address the growing world energy crisis by providing renewable energy in the form of biofuels. In addition, governments will be able to reduce the amount of farm subsidies needed, freeing up these funds for other programs.

“The Value of Producing Food, Energy, and Ecosystem Services within an Agro-Ecosystem”is available as a pdf at the link below.


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