A new carbon study shows Western Canadian farmers are producing some of the world's most sustainable crops.

Steve Webb, the CEO of the Global Institute for Food Security says the study looked at the production of five crops canola, non-durum wheat, durum,  field peas, and lentils, and compared that with data collected from  Australia, France, Germany, Italy, and the U.S.

The results demonstrate that Canadian producers, particularly in Saskatchewan and Western Canada, are producing crops with the least amount of greenhouse gas emissions or carbon dioxide equivalents among regions compared.

He says the study shows the widespread adoption of zero-till operations has been key. with the majority of operations in Saskatchewan utilizing zero-till or mid-till applications. which is driving the overall results.

"The sustainable practices include reduced tillage, the adoption of herbicide-tolerant canola, the variable-rate application of fertilizer, a robust crop rotation system, and the production of nitrogen-fixing pulse crops."

The study was conducted in partnership with the Food Systems PRISM Lab at the University of British Columbia.

"We looked at everything from all of the inputs that go into that are delivered to the farm, so fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, diesel, fuel, the tools that the farmers need to be able to farm, all of the agronomic practices or approaches that producers use.  Then obviously the harvest, and also the transport of the commodity from the farm to the inland terminals and then shipping to export."

Webb points out that we've known from previous work that the soils here in Western Canada sequester carbon and with economic practices like conventional tillage, soils contribute to the carbon footprint.

"One of the things that we learned is when we follow the rules, Canada, Western Canada and the province of Saskatchewan ( those were the three cuts that we made) have some of the lowest carbon footprint crops in the world, particularly Western Canada. And again, we looked at the province of Saskatchewan as a subset of the Western Canadian provinces having the lowest carbon footprint."

Some highlights of the study’s results show that Saskatchewan’s carbon footprint to produce one tonne of canola is 67 per cent lower than the global weighted average. As well, Canadian growers, led by Saskatchewan farmers, are shown to be the most sustainable producers of non-durum wheat. The results of the carbon life cycle analysis also show that no-till farming and reduced fertilizer applications in Saskatchewan field peas result in a carbon footprint that is more than 95 per cent lower than any other region studied. For lentils, the carbon footprint is 130 per cent lower.

Additional details and highlights from this sustainability study are available at https://gifs.ca/sustainableag.