More farmers need to “get inside their neighbour’s business”

At an event near the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Carbon Cowboy Peter Byck, has told policymakers and land managers that “More farmers need to “get inside their neighbour’s business”.

Byck, a professor of practice at Arizona State University, in both the School of Sustainability and the Cronkite School of Journalism, was promoting ground-breaking US soil science and presenting his new film series Roots so Deep.

As he set out the remarkable opportunity that regeneratively managed grassland soils offer in terms of carbon sequestration, he said “The human story is the story – and if farmers are going to change; if were going to ask farmers to change, hopefully inspire them to change and maybe incentivise them to change, then we need to know farmers.”

Byck said that farmers choose to go out every day and risk everything they own. “I mean they are gamblers, they are innovators – and so what I hope our work does is to show touch points for how to get farmers attention, how to speak with farmers – data is really important for farmers and I was really excited by that.”

He believes that there’s a myth that regenerative agriculture is seen as a niche and that other producers disregard it. “We have been told that the AMP farmer was being ostracised by the conventional farmer community; that they’re a unique person, they’re way out ahead – and I’m sure there has been some of that – but what’s also happening is that the neighbours are very curious, but they’re just too polite to ask.”

“Farmers don’t want to get inside their neighbour’s business, it’s a respectful thing – and the adaptive farmer is definitely too polite to toot their own horn, they don’t want to act like they know what’s going on and you don’t. So there’s this gap; this canyon of no communication based on respect and politeness – and so what I hope that what people will see when they see the film is… just ask… How do you do that? – Why is your grass taller? – Why are you only in that field just a few days of the year?”

Byck’s film series, Roots so Deep, builds on themes first explored in Carbon Cowboys. It’s the culmination of a multi-million dollar research project to study and communicate the value of soil carbon sequestration in adaptive multi-paddock systems.

Byck told 8.9 News that “AMP grazing is a huge greenhouse gas sink. That’s what we didn’t know. We spent 10 years, and close to ten million dollars from a lot of donors from corporations to private donors and universities – because we didn’t know that. We knew it looked like a better system, but we didn’t know whether it was a source warming up the planet or a sink cooling it down – and we can say now that it’s a sink, and that’s big news.

“We’re finding that the wildlife, using breeding birds as an indicator species, are three times as likely to be on the AMP side of the fence. We’re seeing water infiltration, three times as much water going into the soil on the AMP side. We’re seeing that grazing writ large is a greenhouse gas sink, out in the pasture – but the AMP side is massive, and the conventional side is modest.”

Byck concluded “What that says is that cattle on grasslands can actually bring down greenhouse gases, when we’re looking at methane, nitrous oxide and CO2. When you factor all those in together – and you look at the total net of greenhouse gas warming – of warming the world, or cooling the world – grazing itself can be a sink, cooling the world; and AMP grazing is a massive sink.”

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