Can tractor exhaust really stimulate soil microbes to provide nutrients to the crop so farmers don’t have to fertilize? We need to see independent research

A southern Alberta farmer promotes a radically different way to manage fertility and sequester carbon at the same time. He’s selling his injecting-exhaust theory to fellow farmers and consumers.

Let’s start with the carbon angle then get on to the machinery itself. The regulated Alberta Carbon Market, which the Saskatchewan and Canadian markets will likely emulate, effectively limits the price farmers receive from selling carbon credits to a maximum of $15 per tonne. Since Alberta protocols limit the amount of credits a farmer practising zero tillage can sell to 0.164 tonnes per acre per year in the Black Soil Zones (0.088 tonnes in Brown), the maximum a farmer can make from selling carbon credits into the regulated Alberta market is $2.47 per acre ($1.32 in Brown). Furthermore, the costs of aggregation, typically in the range of 30 per cent of the selling price, have to be deducted. That leaves a maximum net return of $1.72 per acre per year in the Black zone and 93 cents in the Brown.

While most growers simply complain about these low returns or choose not to sell in the hopes carbon yields and prices may some day increase, Gary Lewis, a farmer from Pincher Creek, Alta., is already selling carbon credits online for up to $81 per acre.

Lewis is disappointed with the carbon-trading system developed out of Kyoto. “Carbon trading releases countries and industries from responsibility for their greenhouse gas emissions,” he says, “and pays farmers next to nothing for offsetting those emissions of greenhouse gases — not even enough to replace the points on a zero-till drill.”

Lewis has targeted those consumers and environmentalists who demand emission reductions. He sees consumers as the real market for the carbon offset credits he believes his farm and patented technology are creating. He is challenging individual consumers to offset their personal carbon footprint by sponsoring a corresponding number of acres of land farmed using the Bio-Agtive technology system he developed.

Consumers going to Lewis’s CO2 Exchange website — — can view satellite pictures of specific Alberta, Montana and Manitoba fields eligible for sponsorship. The pounds of CO2 used by that specific crop are listed as well as the cost of sponsorship of an acre of that field. Currently carbon credit prices range from a low to $19.04 per acre for sponsorship of an Alberta canola field that utilized 3,808 pounds of CO2 all the way up to $81.42 per acre for an Alberta field of oats that took 16,284 pounds of CO2 out of the environment.

“The price a consumer pays the farmer for removal of CO2 under CO2xchange is based on the actual amount of CO2 that has been removed from the air. It is based on actual crop production. We know how much CO2 was used by that crop and have verified production numbers and management practices on every field before even offering the credits to consumers. Consumers go to our website and actually choose the acres they want to use to offset their own carbon footprint.”

While the thought of being paid $80 per acre or even $20 per acre for carbon credits likely has many growers eager to sign up acres, the only acres eligible for listing on CO2x are those being farmed using Lewis’s Bio-Agtive Emissions Technology (BAET).

THE EXHAUST INJECTOR

BAET has two components. First is a mechanical system of capturing the tractor exhaust emissions, cooling them, and then injecting the CO2, nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide, and oxidized minerals into the soil. This is not as simple as it sounds. A system has to be custom designed for each tractor-airdrill combination to ensure the flow of exhaust through the system does not create backpressure, or suction, which could have detrimental effects on the engine. The air has to be cooled enough so it will not deteriorate air cart tanks and hoses or impact seed germination, yet not cooled so much that moisture condensing out of the hot exhaust causes plugging of seed and fertilizer shoots.

As a result, the cost of the mechanical system is in the neigh-

About the author

Gerald Pilger's recent articles

Comments

explore

Stories from our other publications