Institute for Environmental Decisions IED. ETH Zürich

Is agroforestry an economic opportunity for carbon-neutral animal production?

In Switzerland, agriculture is responsible for about 11 % of the emitted greenhouse gases. Agroforestry systems may improve the climate balance of Swiss agriculture by sequestering carbon. Agroforestry systems are a combination of a lignifying permanent crop with a crop or with grassland on the same area. One advantage is their capability to sequester carbon, that is stored in the permanent crop’s wood or as an enrichment of humus in the soils. After harvesting, the wood can be used as timber/furniture wood or as a substitute for fossil energy sources. In both cases, greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced. Applying this system to a Swiss farm specialized in milk production or suckler cows can reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero without reducing the animal production. In our analysis, this reduction generates additional costs of at least 9 centimes per kilogram milk or 80 centimes per kilogram meat. If the emissions shall be reduced without reducing production of milk or meat, additional costs of at least 10 centimes per kilogram milk or 90 centimes per kilogram meat are generated.

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