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Vegetable Carbons - Threat For Food

Submitted by Loring A. Windblad on July 1, 2010

Carbon Footprint Facts: Concepts such as “carbon footprints” and “food miles”, though very popular with the public, need to be reconsidered and examined in detail. The emissions of greenhouse gas that help produce food and that are involved in transporting it to the consumer, need to be understood so as to allow us to make choices that are better informed.

What we generally take into consideration are factors such as the fuel required to take the food from the retailer to the consumer. One important factor that we refuse to take into consideration is the amount of carbon dioxide that is emitted from the soil from where these vegetables are grown. As plants photosynthesize, they absorb the carbon present in the atmosphere. At the same time these plants give out carbon dioxide in the soil.

The issue of carbon emissions and effective land management is not a small issue.

The estimated amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere is about a quarter of what was caused by burning fossil fuels. This makes it an issue to ponder over.

Plants absorb carbon that they release into the atmosphere.

However, some carbon is stored in the soil in the form of organic matter.  The methods therefore used to label products with food miles or carbon footprints are flawed. This is because they do not consider the carbon that is emitted in the soil.  It also depends on where these crops are grown as each country or region will have different emission levels.

Certain food or crops emit more carbon in the soil as compared to others. Broccoli tends to add more carbon to the soil than what it emits.  This happens mainly because part of the plants biomass which is returned to the fields slowly breaks down adding carbon to the soil.   
Some other crops like lettuce also contribute to the high carbon levels in the soil.

This happens because part of the crop’s biomass is consumed, while a little is left behind to rot.

The question we need to ask ourselves are:

  • Do we continue growing crops that pose a challenge to the environment?
  • Can these emissions from growing certain plants be reduced?
  • Do these carbon emissions pose a threat to our food?

Well it all depends on us. We need to look at traditional methods of cultivation, wherein there is crop rotation and the land gets to breathe, instead of growing the same crops year after year.
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