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A new tool that calculates the carbon footprint of canola and barley production within the farm gate will increase Canada’s competitive advantage in the global market.

The downloadable Canadian Crop Carbon Footprint Lookup Tool was primarily developed in response to sustainability measures requested by the European biodiesel industry, said Dennis Rogoza, who developed the tool.

“The view was that Canadian canola could be very competitive in the $10-billion-per-year European biodiesel market,” said Rogoza, sustainability advisor at the Canola Council of Canada. “But in order to be competitive, we had to provide carbon footprint numbers that are actually quite better than the default numbers being used in Europe.”

Those default numbers represent a greenhouse gas threshold established by the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive. In particular, canola biodiesel was assigned a 38 per cent greenhouse gas reduction default value.

The EU laid out another option to report greenhouse gas reductions: a regional approach, where the carbon footprint number can be determined by “eco zone” regions based on soil, moisture and weather.

Because Canada’s growing conditions are different than Europe’s, Canada’s actual greenhouse gas reduction value is higher than the 38 per cent default. As a result, said Rogoza, researchers combined their efforts to establish carbon numbers for canola and barley—using the Canadian government’s land data, surveying canola growers and collecting barley crop insurance data to meet the eco zone region requirements.

But that didn’t go far enough, as a new problem arose: Canada’s many delivery points accept canola and barley from multiple regions, meaning it would be difficult for delivery points to establish precise carbon footprint numbers from various plots that have different growing conditions.

“For example, a facility in Lloydminster draws its grain supply from six different reporting zones. So, how could a delivery point track the exact carbon numbers from all these various zones?” Rogoza said.

The solution? Use Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s massive database of the Prairies’ legal land descriptions—township, range, section, quarter-section and meridian—to pinpoint carbon footprint numbers derived from canola and barley production.

As a result, the carbon footprint tool was developed.

“This is really a tracking tool that delivery points can use to identify each specific load by the reporting unit to determine the load’s number,” Rogoza said.

It isn’t just the biofuel industry that’s requiring sustainability figures from grain. There’s also a growing demand for sustainability in the food and feed markets, said Lauren Stone, manager of corporate affairs and sustainability at Cargill.

“There is a growing opportunity for the Canadian canola industry to access the EU biodiesel market, and we now have an accepted carbon footprint that meets one of those requirements.

“However, there is also a need for carbon analysis of other grains beyond the EU market, such as barley and wheat. It is a key component for sustainability that many large retail food service companies across the world are asking for as part of their sustainability programs.”

Stone commended the tool, calling it a first step to meet global sustainability requests.

“The carbon lookup tool requires minimal information to calculate the carbon footprint for canola and barley, but answers questions related to soil carbon, N2O, fertilizer and energy in a very simple way.”


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