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Plowing Carbon Into the Fields

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the going-green-can-be-exhausting dept.

Earth 467

OzPeter writes "A wheat farmer in Australia has eliminated adding fertilizer to his crop by the simple process of injecting the cooled diesel exhaust of his modified tractor into the ground when the wheat is being sown. In doing so he eliminates releasing carbon into the atmosphere and at the same time saves himself up to $500,000 (AUD) that would have been required to fertilize his 3,900 hectares in the traditional way. Yet his crop yields over the last two years have been at least on par with his best yields since 2001. The technique was developed by a Canadian, Gary Lewis of Bio Agtive, and is currently in trial at 100 farms around the world."

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What (1, Insightful)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939179)

Not that blowing it into the atmosphere is much better, but doesn't diesel exhaust contain all sorts of nasty toxins? If he's polluting his ground water then in a few years he'll have more to worry about than his dying crops..

Overpopulation (-1, Offtopic)

reporter (666905) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939283)

Brian Gordon (987471) wrote, "Not that blowing it into the atmosphere is much better, but doesn't diesel exhaust contain all sorts of nasty toxins? If he's polluting his ground water then in a few years he'll have more to worry about than his dying crops..".

Here's another angle of the problem.

Suppose that humankind made a concerted attempt to voluntarily produce less children. Our population declines from 6 billion to 3 billion. Then, humankind does not need so much food and so much energy. The farmer in this thread of discussion can shutdown his farm and engage in another activity.

However, talk of overpopulation is taboo. It is too closely tied to immigration. The current mantra is that growing the population is good, and immigration is the best way to grow the population. So, the population continues to grow, pressing against the limits of sustainability -- for the developed world.

Pro-immigration (and pro-population-growth) fans claim that the issue is merely transferring some people from one country to another country and that, hence, immigration results in a net gain of zero to the world's population.

Not quite. The actual problems are twofold. The environment of the country receiving the immigrants is placed under stress. (Currently, California has no additional land for farming or ranching to meet the needs of the ballooning population.) The freeing up of resources in the home country (from which the immigrants fled) now encourages more population growth. What we have now is population growth in the target country (which receive the immigrants) and additional growth in the home country.

Wait. Now, you ask, "How will banning immigration help?" First, the population of the target country stops growing. Although the popuation in the impoverished home country may continute to grow, at some point, malnutrition and starvation will ensure that the population reaches some maximum value, or (more likely) the angry and starving mobs will wage a civil war, killing plenty of the population. The end result is a form of brutal population control. Malnutrition (and starvation) or civil war. Take your pick. The end result is the same: population control.

I point out this brutal logic without any relish. The hard facts of life are that a finite system like planet earth cannot sustain infinite population growth. We in the developed world should deal with the issue now before the Four Horsemen bring their own solution.

Although modernization may appear to slow the growth, a recent article in "The Economist" claims that modernization does not necessarily do so. I will try to find the article if I have time. Perhaps, you in the SlashDot community can help me to find the article. It was published this year.

Re:Overpopulation (-1, Troll)

reporter (666905) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939299)

Sorry. I have a typo. The last paragraph should be changed to "Although modernization may appear to reduce the population, a recent article in 'The Economist' claims that modernization does not necessarily do so. I will try to find the article if I have time. Perhaps, you in the SlashDot community can help me to find the article. It was published this year.".

Wealth and Population: Article by "The Economist" (4, Interesting)

reporter (666905) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939445)

I found the article [economist.com] by "The Economist". The article debunks the claim that increasing wealth results in a decreasing population. The implications for excessive population growth are alarming.

Re:Wealth and Population: Article by "The Economis (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939537)

Why don't you respond to some of the people who responded to you instead of looking up statistics that vaguely back up an argument from a tangential hypothesis.

Re:Wealth and Population: Article by "The Economis (2, Insightful)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939595)

While it sounds good in theory a stagnate or declining population is also an aging population which brings about it's own problems. Pretty much all successful species will populate to the limits of their resources. For us, the only necessary resource is energy. It's use and abundance is perhaps the only thing that will ever limit our growth.

I seem to recall something like 2/3 of the Earth's land cannot currently be used for crops because of salt. Enter desalination(plenty of water on the Earth) and genetic engineering.

If that problem is solved we could theoretically reach 18 billion people or more. We could also cultivate and utilize the oceans better. I do not think we are anywhere near shaping the Earth's ecosystem to completely benefit us.

After that, on to the stars!

PS Ant's global biomass is between 900 million and 9 billion tonnes. Human's global biomass is a mere 100 million tonnes. That's a lot of ants and I don't think they're worried. source [wikipedia.org]

Re:Wealth and Population: Article by "The Economis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939663)

PS Ant's global biomass is between 900 million and 9 billion tonnes. Human's global biomass is a mere 100 million tonnes. That's a lot of ants and I don't think they're worried. source [wikipedia.org]

Well, yes, but consider: how much energy does one tonne of ant biomass use/need? Then compare with the amount of energy used by the average tonne of human biomass. I think you'll find that the latter is well over a hundred times that of the former ...

Re:Wealth and Population: Article by "The Economis (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939627)

Stop the Catholic and Christine spread that encourages unbridled birth and you might have a chance,
The chance you can do that == 0.0
Most every third world country they have spread their stupidity is blighted with uncontrolled birth and Poverty.
Examples: Philippines, Mexico.

The Italians have accomplished two things, The destruction of the third world and professional gangsterism and Pizza
wait, the Italians have accomplished three things, The destruction of the third world and professional gangsterism and Pizza and Picasso
wait, the Italians have accomplished four things, The destruction of the third world and professional gangsterism and Pizza and Picasso and FUCK IT

What if we had a big ass war... (0, Troll)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939303)

The problem with the idea of controlling population is who exactly is going to have less babies. I mean, if you keep hammering home in people's heads that the planet is crowded and there's too many humans, it sorta makes the idea that life is sacred seem rather foolish now, doesn't it.

I mean, when your overpopulation is 3 billion, it makes even a nuclear war a workable proposition.

Re:Overpopulation (5, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939381)

(Currently, California has no additional land for farming or ranching to meet the needs of the ballooning population.)

California has plenty of land for farming. All along the back of the Sierra Nevada there is a huge valley full of decent land; the problem is water. All the water is being diverted into LA for drinking. If LA starts getting their water from the ocean, then we can begin to grow stuff there. The foothills would be another potential place to start growing, if the water were there. Also, if we really need to, we can switch from crops like almonds to crops like wheat or oats.

Wait. Now, you ask, "How will banning immigration help?"

Anti-immigration laws are like the war on drugs: neither one works. You may not realize it, but after drugs, one of the best sources of income for organized crime is human-trafficking: sneaking poor people into rich countries. If you continue to support anti-immigration laws, you will continue to support violence, human exploitation, and all the other problems that come with organized crime. There is no way to stop it. The only thing to do is legalize it.

People who worry about overpopulation don't realize that if we increase women's rights and reduce poverty in developing nations, the problem will take care of itself.

Re:Overpopulation (3, Insightful)

genner (694963) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939453)

Anti-immigration laws are like the war on drugs: neither one works. You may not realize it, but after drugs, one of the best sources of income for organized crime is human-trafficking: sneaking poor people into rich countries. If you continue to support anti-immigration laws, you will continue to support violence, human exploitation, and all the other problems that come with organized crime. There is no way to stop it. The only thing to do is legalize it.

All you need to do to end it is require proof of citizenship(that's actaully checked out) to get hired in this country. Then charge companies who don't comply with rico laws (sieze their assests etc) . This will never happen since companies make too much money off the backs of illegal immigrants working for less than minimum wage.

Re:Overpopulation (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939491)

I would agree with you except I've known too many immigrants who've gotten fake social security cards, id's and all the papers a normal person would need to work in the US. Doing what you suggest would only make it a little harder. Just like drugs, which is actively persecuted.

Re:Overpopulation (1)

genner (694963) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939623)

I would agree with you except I've known too many immigrants who've gotten fake social security cards, id's and all the papers a normal person would need to work in the US. Doing what you suggest would only make it a little harder. Just like drugs, which is actively persecuted.

Getting a fake is easy. Actually getting a real SSN that traces back to person who isn't dead is a little harder. A simple background check would eliminate a lot of the fakes.

Re:Overpopulation (4, Insightful)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939589)

Immigration is already legal. It's those that try and skip the system in place that give it a bad name. I know many legal immigrants and they hate illegal immigrants more than native Americans because they (the illegals) just made it harder for them (the legals) to follow the rules.

Re:Overpopulation (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939765)

It's too limited. Getting a visa to come to the US is essentially like winning the lottery. In fact, they even call it a 'green card lottery.'

Re:Overpopulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939569)

BTW: Your ideas are not controversial. They are boring and old hat. They've been discussed ad nauseum. Get a degree.

Re:Overpopulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939579)

The funny thing is you seem to think the 'home' country is immune to malnutrition, starvation and civil war, and that these problems are in somehow in the future and not right here with us now. Actually, the funniest thing is people have been saying what you are saying for hundreds of years, well before there were even a billion people on the planet let alone 3. Yet here we are.

Earth: What Are We Saving It For? (4, Insightful)

Alaren (682568) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939705)

The hard facts of life are that a finite system like planet earth cannot sustain infinite population growth.

The hard fact of life is that a finite system like our solar system cannot sustain infinite habitation. We all die when the sun burns out anyway.

I like to ask it this way: "Earth: what are we saving it for?" [kennethpike.com]

Population "control" is not inevitable. Many developed countries are facing the frightening reality of negative birth rates. The Economist's claims that modernization "does not necessarily" slow growth are not relevant because modernization also increases resources by providing technology that makes food production more efficient.

Yes, eventually we will reach some kind of hard limit on how many people can live on the Earth at once. But there's nothing but alarmist speculation to suggest that we're anywhere near that limit, and the "Four Horsemen" are not the only natural solution to a population that exceeds our system's ability to provide. It's just as likely that we will instead find ourselves sacrificing a lot of modern conveniences in order to put more energy into food production et cetera. This would hardly signal an apocalypse.

I'm glad that we as a species can look to our long-term survival, I am familiar with the science behind a number of "extinction event" scenarios, and I don't want to tell you that your concerns are unfounded. But they are almost certainly overstated.

Re:What (1)

KibibyteBrain (1455987) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939295)

I'm assuming that they literally don't just simply pipe the fumes into the ground people(what is it with /., anyway?), and I'm guessing that's where that's where "Bio Agtive's" IP comes in. It probably works out that purifying the exhaust becomes not only an affordable expense but profitable with this process, hence the pollution benefit. Unfortunately their site is slashdotted right now, so who knows about details. http://www.bioagtive.com/ [bioagtive.com]

Re:What (4, Informative)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939497)

Not that blowing it into the atmosphere is much better, but doesn't diesel exhaust contain all sorts of nasty toxins?

I don't recall the exact exhaust gas composition, but in my younger days working at a research lab we participated in a series of animal studies on diesel exhaust. You could pump a lot of diesel exhaust through lab animals without any serious side effects. Some of the high dose groups had lungs that looked like they had been smoking, but none of them died from toxins in the exhaust. I don't remember there being any statistical correlation to cancers or cell differentiation, either. But that was a long time ago.

My vague memory of the conclusions were that you breath a lot of diesel exhaust without harmful side effects, although the particulates would keep your pulmonary macrophage in business.

Re:What (-1, Offtopic)

John Allsup (987) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939591)

The Theory of Quantum Interpretation of Uncertain Passages of Law

by John

...

31.4.15.9. If it isn't obvious at first glance, ignore it!

Rationale: it could have been made obvious if it was necessary (the logic approach proves this) and thus it is simply not intended as a message for you and so you may logically just ignore it.

...

...56

The Theory of Quantum Interpretation of Uncertain Passages of Law

by John

...

31.4.15.9. If it isn't obvious at first glance, ignore it!

Rationale: it could have been made obvious if it was necessary (the logic approach proves this) and thus it is simply not intended as a message for you and so you may logically just ignore it.

...

...56

Re:What (1)

GrandTeddyBearOfDoom (1483117) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939605)

Here's the code in case you're wondering -- gtbod.

<!-- and NO this WASN't WRITTEN in DREAMWEAVER -->

<div>

<h1>The Theory of Quantum Interpretation of Uncertain Passages of Law</h1>

<p>by John</p>

<p>...</p>

<h3>31.4.15.9. If it isn't obvious at first glance, ignore it!</h3>

<p>Rationale: it could have been made obvious if it was necessary (the logic approach proves this) and thus it is simply not intended as a message for you and so you may logically just ignore it.</p>

<p>...</p>

<p>...56</p>

</div>

Ok, so how is this not BS? (3, Interesting)

dr2chase (653338) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939185)

What chemical process is converting the CO2, into not-CO2? He's not burying that carbon deep enough to keep it out of the atmosphere for more than a few days. Best case for him, perhaps some nitrogen compounds in the exhaust are ending up in the soil, but otherwise, this sounds like a gimmick.

Re:Ok, so how is this not BS? (2, Interesting)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939201)

Well those nitrogen compounds being depleted is why he has to pay $500,000 for fertilizer.

But you're right that this does absolutely nothing for reducing CO2 emissions.

Re:Ok, so how is this not BS? (2, Interesting)

jtorkbob (885054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939265)

Well, except for that assuming it really saves him that much fertilizer, then the fertilizer won't have to be produced, transported and handled. How much energy is used in that process?

That being said, it sounds too good to be true.

Re:Ok, so how is this not BS? (5, Interesting)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939711)

Depends on the soil. If the soil is alkaline then the carbonic acid (which will form very easily and quickly if the soil isn't bone dry) will react and take the CO2 out.

Re:Ok, so how is this not BS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939205)

any idea what plants consider NOx's? Diesels make them.

Re:Ok, so how is this not BS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939401)

As opposed to emitting toxic fumes and polluting with fertilizer, he uses what would be the fumes as fertilizer.

It's great but (2, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939191)

It's great that he can inject carbon dioxide during planting, but most farmers use the tractor for more than just planting. Can he inject it into the ground at other times when driving around, or would it disturb the plants? The article didn't say.

If he can really go without fertilizer in the long term, then it may also help with the human impacts on the nitrogen cycle [wikipedia.org] .

Re:It's great but (0)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939209)

Ten posts and nobody has referenced the fight club billboard:

DID YOU KNOW? YOU CAN FERTILIZE YOUR LAWN WITH USED MOTOR OIL -The Environmental Protection Agency

http://www.ihatebillboards.com/wp/img//2008/08/fight_club-0-500x281.jpg [ihatebillboards.com]
 
(that's a lie, by the way; don't try it)

Re:It's great but (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939427)

My brother tried for ten years to kill a clump of weeds outside his shop by dumping his used motor oil on it (and there were a LOT of motors going through that shop). Never seemed to hurt it in the slightest, although it made it look very evil.

Posting anonymously, obviously, because nowadays that's akin to confession to murder or rape.

Re:It's great but (0, Offtopic)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939533)

Your IP has been logged by the EPA! Get our while you still ca-- ERROR CARRIER LOST

Re:It's great but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939277)

My cousins actually have a tractor with system on it. As far as I know they only inject the carbon dioxide during planting as a replacement for the fertilizer they would normally spray on at the time.

What kind of fuel non-efficiency is he getting (1)

dwillden (521345) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939195)

1100 Kilos of Carbon per Hectacre? That seems a little off to me. Perhaps I don't understand the how its calculated.

Re:What kind of fuel non-efficiency is he getting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939367)

I'm thinking this should be 1.1 kg/Ha

1100 Kg of air per hectare... (1)

WoTG (610710) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939767)

Someone a few posts lower linked to a blog with more info. It says "Mr Lewis calculates a zero-till rig will put 1100 kilograms of air through the tractor engine to work a hectare."

I still don't see how this works, but I'm sure enough people will test it eventually.

Resident expert (4, Funny)

ZackSchil (560462) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939207)

Having absolutely no experience with any farming techniques, any real knowledge of the chemical composition of cooled diesel exhaust or even having read the article, I still somehow feel confident enough to give a vague denouncement of this farming technique.

AHEM.

This will never work because the gas will escape/it will poison the ground/I am so much smarter than whoever came up with this.

Thank you, thank you. Love ya Slashdot. Never change.

Re:Resident expert (2, Interesting)

iammani (1392285) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939405)

I wouldnt go far to say poison the ground.

I am no expert in chemistry or toxicology, so that take my comment with heaps of salt

The major composition of emission(CO, CO2, NO2, SO2 gases) will no way get collected during condensation. The condensed liquid/solid will contain all sort of hydrocarbons with various amounts of nitrogen, sulfur and their oxides. It should be an interesting mixture/tar (which I am not really sure will be consistent), which is very likely to not fall under any category of posions (atleast at the dosage the farmer is using).

with millions of dollars at stake im sure.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939593)

nothing untoward would happen.

if leaded gas were still legal (and it is in many countries), this would basically be pumping lead into your food. whatever comes out of the tailpipe is going to wind up in that ground, and you might want to figure out what it is before you put it there.

i am reminded of the uses of raffinate favored by mining companies... including the way they took the raffinate sludge waste from the process of converting uranium yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride, treated it, the called it 'fertilizer' and sprayed it on open fields. with the approval of the nuclear regulatory commission.

but i guess you are one who thinks it was silly of people to sue them into stopping this? what could be wrong with spraying uranium processing waste on to open fields, right next to a tributary of the mississippi river, and trusting the company to monitor and study the effects of this spraying? (the company that would otherwise have to pay millions of dollars to transport and dump it in a proper disposal facility)?

It is funny (4, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939673)

It seems to be these days that there are a lot of people that can't possibly believe there are any ecological solutions that don't involve the massive reduction in human emissions. When the talk is about global warming and reducing carbon output, they are on board and scream "You aren't a scientist, you have to listen to the scientists!" to anyone who questions it. However, when scientists have any other solution, one that DOESN'T involve an emission reduction, they get pissed off, and denounce those scientists. Suddenly they are experts in all the reasons that must be wrong.

A good example of this is what has happened with the new book Super Freakonomics. Levitt does the same thing he does in the original Freakonomics of stripping away morality from various issues and applying economics. His original book drew ire from conservative types because it presented a convincing argument that legalized abortion has lead to a reduction in crime, but liberal types were generally ok with it.

Well, now he's become someone high up on the enemies list because in Super Freakonomics he analyzes the economics of combating global arming through geoengineering methods, rather than reducing emissions. Note that he doesn't say it isn't real or isn't a problem, just looks at different solutions as being more economically feasible. Yet that has drawn massive ire from the environmentalist types.

It just seems to be an article of faith these days that the only thing good for the environment is to use less. Any solutions that involves anything else is shouted down. This being the same sort of thing. People point to science as the ultimate bastion of truth... so long as what it shows agrees with their world view. Any time something contrary comes out, all of a sudden they are the experts instead of the scientists.

Re:It is funny (0, Flamebait)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939703)

you are wrong. there are perfectly good solutions that can be money makers as well as helping the environment. it's just for every good idea, there is 1000 shit ones that are just an attempt to cash in on the global warming fad. they typically contain junk science that doesn't sense check and are always light on details - this one is case in point.

CO2 is not a fertiliser, diesel fumes are toxic, any catalitic process to convert the fumes is going to be so wasteful that you'll need to burn significantly more diesel mitigating the cost saving by spending more on fuel. then there is the inflated savings figures which always accompany these kinds of "breakthroughs".

what else can you expect but a jaded response?

Re:It is funny (3, Insightful)

deglr6328 (150198) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939779)

um no. But it does seem "these days" that more and more people who, despite obviously knowing fuck all about science or how evidence bound scientific inquiry functions, nonetheless feel entitled to pontificate endlessly on whatever heavily scientifically related subject they like in total blissful, laughable ignorance.

Questions (1)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939215)

Fertilizer is nitrogen and phosphorus. Exhaust is carbon and oxygen. Can one pair really be replaced by the other?

What keeps the injected CO2 from leaking back out?

Why doesn't the CO2 in the air already do the same thing?

I suspect bad journalism (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939279)

I think it has more to do with the NOx from the exhaust. Not that I have any clue how nitrous oxide could be made into something useful like niter by pumping it into the ground. My issue is that this article claims it has something to do with carbon, which makes even less sense.

Most journalists are worse at science than I am.

Re:I suspect bad journalism (2, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939357)

Actually, Diesel normally contains many of the bio elements in there ( along with many others that are NOT good for bio) since it is from biological background. But, there is a shortage of N in there. I suspect that you are right and that the NOx (which Diesel engines generate a LOT of), would be in there and might be fairly useful.

As to the other contaminants, there are already put in the ground. Those that sink in the air will simply land on the ground and soak in. IOW, injecting this in the ground, PROBABLY is decent, and will probably end up being the norm for any diesel powered tractor in another 5 years.

Re:I suspect bad journalism (4, Informative)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939465)

Or you can read the article and see that CO2 helps anaerobic bacteria that also happen to be nitrogen fixers...guess the journalists know more than you, after all.

Re:Questions (5, Interesting)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939379)

As has been written in here several times, lotta nitrate compounds in diesel exhaust, even more so than gasoline motor exhaust due to the much higher compression ratios that diesel engines require to run on. Plants need CO2, but they also need nitrates and nitrides in order to grow. As far as carbon compounds in the exhaust, I dunno if they escape the soil (being gaseous) or get bound up to become part of the plants immediately or what. I would have loved to see a more technical article than TFA, that's for sure.

Re:Questions (1)

Bytes U (652902) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939599)

"Based at the Alberta's Ag Info Center in Stettler, Pauly a year ago issued news releases about the concept. Among his key criticisms is that there is "no mechanism" to hold such gases in well-aerated soil. "If you don't need fertilizer, fertilizer is a waste and then tractor exhaust 'works' fine," Pauly says, implying it has no effect. The nitrous oxide in the exhaust is not a plant nutrient, he says, and that there are "no soil processes that oxidize nitrous oxide into nitrate," which is the form of nitrogen used by plants. He says the amount of carbon dioxide in the diesel exhaust is insignificant compared with the amount given off by microorganisms in the soil."

Re:Questions (3, Informative)

jginspace (678908) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939559)

Fertilizer is nitrogen and phosphorus. Exhaust is carbon and oxygen. Can one pair really be replaced by the other?

"The exhaust gases are believed to stimulate microbial activity and root growth, allowing the plants to more efficiently extract nutrient and moisture from the soil."

What keeps the injected CO2 from leaking back out?

"The system relies on attraction between negatively-charged ions in the gases and the soil’s positively charged alkaline component to hold the gases in the soil, as well as sealing it in."

http://abovecapricorn.blogspot.com/2009/10/soil-carbon-may-come-from-tractor.html [blogspot.com]

Diesel exhaust in your bread? (1, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939247)

Given what's in diesel exhaust [wikipedia.org] , I don't think I want any of that winding up in my bread.

Re:Diesel exhaust in your bread? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939291)

It's already in there my man.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photosynthesis

Re:Diesel exhaust in your bread? (0)

thesupraman (179040) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939321)

And even ignoring that, you fertilise mainly to add NITROGEN (compounds, bio available..), not carbon which plants quite happily get from the air ANYWAY.

In other words, the whole thing is pure BS, and very very slighly bad for the crops, and there are many many rather nasty chemicals in diesel exhaust.

Re:Diesel exhaust in your bread? (2, Insightful)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939459)

In other words, the whole thing is pure BS, and very very slighly bad for the crops, and there are many many rather nasty chemicals in diesel exhaust.

Read the thread to see why your complaint about nitrogen isn't valid. You can't make up for your slight knowledge of the subject by more aggressively declaring yourself correct.

Re:Diesel exhaust in your bread? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939347)

Considering this stuff normally goes into the air and can be brought back down by rainfall... it probably is already in your bread.

Re:Diesel exhaust in your bread? (5, Insightful)

Cathoderoytube (1088737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939355)

That's nothing! NOTHING! Have you even seen what's in pig, chicken, cow, and sheep manure? And they actually use that stuff to grow food. I mean it's the feces of animals, and they're dumping it on our food to make it grow. But somehow the food is okay and safe to eat. Maybe there's something about plants that allows them to thrive on things that are poisonous to us, but allows them to produce fruits and vegetables that are also edible to us.

Re:Diesel exhaust in your bread? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939529)

Oh the circle of life.

massive outbreaks say otherwise (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939619)

And they actually use that stuff to grow food. I mean it's the feces of animals, and they're dumping it on our food to make it grow. But somehow the food is okay and safe to eat. http://www.google.com/search?&q=Salmonella+Contamination [google.com]

Spinach, romaine lettuce, pistachios, peanuts, tomatoes, onion sprouts, cantaloupes, alfalfa sprouts, and that's when I stopped looking around page 2-3.

Funny definition of "okay and safe to eat."

Re:Diesel exhaust in your bread? (1)

Ruvim (889012) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939615)

I wonder if the next logical step: separating questionable components of exhaust from the "useful" ones (such as carbons and nitrates) would bring the cost to be comparable to just buying conventional fertilizers?

It can't possibly be enough... (1, Redundant)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939287)

Let's ignore for the moment the problem that carbon isn't fertilizer.

He can't possibly be getting enough exhaust to make a difference. There's just not enough carbon in the tank of Diesel to make a difference when spread across the field in the amounts he burns it during tilling/planting.

As much as we talk about carbon emissions, the exhaust coming out of his equipment is barely changed from what went in. If pumping in the exhaust from his equipment had a noticeable effect, then pumping in twice as much just plain air (readily available) as that would have a much larger effect and being nearly free would seem rather tempting for all farmers.

This sounds like bunk.

Re:It can't possibly be enough... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939361)

Fertilizer is made of nitrogen. Diesel exhaust is full of nitrogen oxides (NOx). So it follows that using the nitrogen compounds from his tractor exhaust would eliminate the need for fertilizer.

Plants take nitrogen from the soil and carbon from the atmosphere, so putting carbon into the soil wouldn't do anything for the plants -- but oxidizing atmospheric nitrogen (the N2 in that makes up 78% of the atmosphere is useless to plants and animals) and depositing it into the soil is actually a good idea.

dom

Re:It can't possibly be enough... (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939449)

No, it doesn't contain a ton of NOx. The NOx in Diesel exhaust, high as it may be for vehicle exhaust, can be measured in the parts per million.

Re:It can't possibly be enough... (1)

pitterpatter (1397479) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939669)

No, it doesn't contain a ton of NOx. The NOx in Diesel exhaust, high as it may be for vehicle exhaust, can be measured in the parts per million.

While that's undoubtedly true, it doesn't actually convey much useful information. After all, the silicon content of a wafer as delivered to a chip plant "can be measured in the parts per million," too.

(Hint: It's really, really close to 1,000,000 ppm.)

My guess is that NOx content of diesel exhaust is in the tens or hundreds of ppm and is therefore not comparable to the usable N content of fertilizer, but you didn't tell me that.

Re:It can't possibly be enough... (1)

nas (29935) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939761)

Yes, the amount of NOx is much too small to affect plant growth (even assuming 100% of it stays in the ground and converts into a plant available form). After people pointed this fact out, the snakeoil salesman dreamed up the idea of the CO2 (or something) in the exhaust stimulating microbes in the soil.

It's not bunk, just unexplained (2, Interesting)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939757)

You're right that NOx is a tiny fraction of the output, still N2 makes up over 75% of the fumes. It is thought diesel particulates can act as microscopic sponges and help soil absorbtion of nitrogen and other compounds. Still, little is known as to why this works which is why it is in a controlled trial development stage so scientists can study it. They've found reduced soil pH, increased nitrogen absorbtion and other good things, so the question isn't if it works but why it works.

Re:It can't possibly be enough... (4, Insightful)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939435)

It's nice that you're so sure actual scientists know less than you, and that there's no such thing as nitrogen fixing bacteria, and that they sure aren't fucking anaerobic and like CO2. Christ.

Re:It can't possibly be enough... (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939489)

No scientists in this story, only farmers.

As to these bacteria you speak of, they are going to be in bad shape due to the presence of massive amounts of oxygen in this exhaust due to the incomplete combustion typical of Diesels (they do not have throttle plates, and thus do not burn all the oxygen drawn in unless operated at full throttle).

Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus in Deisel Fuel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939307)

This farmer clearly lacks an elemental (pun intended) understanding of chemistry.

Re:Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus in Deisel Fuel? (2, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939443)

So do you. Potassium and Phosphorus, as well as most, if not all of the micro elements are in diesel. Why? Because it CAME FROM BIO-MATTER IN THE FIRST PLACE. Hell, where do you think that FERTILIZER COMES FROM? What is missing is N. BUT, as other pointed out, nitrogen fixing bacteria and NOx may well do the job.

Another thing for Mythbusters? (2, Funny)

Darkk (1296127) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939323)

What a load of bunk. Let's see if Mythbusters would be willing to bust this myth.

Re:Another thing for Mythbusters? (3, Funny)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939457)

They'll just blow up the tractor and use a photo-spectrometer to measure the emissions.

If it can't be blown up, then it don't belong on Mythbusters.

Making Local Fertalizer (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939333)

I think the argument to this mechanism is that he is providing an extra carbon source for the nitrogen fixers natively present in the soil. These bacteria convert N2 into ammonia, which can then be absorbed by the plants. Essentially drives the nitrogen cycle more quickly than would occur otherwise. Alternatives in place are to do alternate plantings with plants that have rhizobiums such as legumes.

As to the people saying this is not carbon neutral, I think you should read up on the Haber-bosch process - how ammonia is made for fertilizer. Unlike microbes which can do this at room temperature and pressure, it takes something like 400 C at several times Earth's pressure. This is a very expensive process, and cutting down ammonia production will save a lot of energy.

Re:Making Local Fertalizer (2, Interesting)

nas (29935) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939775)

Synthesizing nitrogen is very expensive (in energy and in monetary price). If this exhaust idea worked you can be sure farmers would snatch it up. Unfortunately it is snake oil. AFAIK, there is no serious study showing any effect.

Using legumes to fixate nitrogen is something that *does* work and farmers are happy to do so if there is a market for the crop (we grow yellow peas as much as reasonably possible). Because organic farmers can get a premium for their other crops, they sometimes grow legumes purely for the residual nitrogen and plow them down instead of harvesting. Unfortunately organic farms requires quite a bit more fossil fuel than modern conventional farming (something most shoppers are probably unaware of).

The Canadian story ... (5, Informative)

jginspace (678908) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939343)

Funny this sounded familiar, I submitted [slashdot.org] the story about the Canadian farmer [www.cbc.ca] three years ago. That article says it was developed by a farmer named Darrel Carlisle and is generally more informative.

Re:The Canadian story ... (5, Informative)

jginspace (678908) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939407)

And some informative articles, mentioning the involvements of Darrel Carlisle and Gary Lewis and the timeline:

Makers tout exhaust as nutrient, despite critics
http://www.agweek.com/articles/index.cfm?article_id=13745&property_id=41 [agweek.com]

Recycled tractor exhaust appears to improve farmland: farmer
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2007/08/28/tractor-emissions.html [www.cbc.ca]

Tractor exhaust fertilization system causing dispute
http://www.minotdailynews.com/page/content.detail/id/514706.html?nav=5010&showlayout=0 [minotdailynews.com]

See you in Court (-1, Troll)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939345)

If this is not an Onion story, then the farmer better be prepared for some serious court expenses.
He would be sued by the Farm Industry and its associated EPA:
1) Pollution by releasing unauthorized elements- never mind that larger corporates do it all the time.
2) Poisoning the food deliberately- never mind the frequent salmonella outbreaks are because of unsafe corporate practices.
3) Conspiracy against State - with a view to reduce tax income from corporates by using alternate stuff - ???

Re:See you in Court (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939383)

The EPA?

Wrong country dumbass.

Re:See you in Court (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939419)

1) Pollution by releasing unauthorized elements- never mind that larger corporates do it all the time.

Ok, yes, people and businesses can be fined for dumping certain chemicals.

2) Poisoning the food deliberately- never mind the frequent salmonella outbreaks are because of unsafe corporate practices.

Could you give an example of this?

3) Conspiracy against State - with a view to reduce tax income from corporates by using alternate stuff - ???

Could you give an example of this?

What a bunch of Bullshit (2, Informative)

Bytes U (652902) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939387)

I am a farmer in Canada and fertilizer does not cost 1200 to 1500 a tonne. There's no way in hell it costs half a million dollars to fertilize 3900 HA of wheat. Injecting diesel exhaust fumes in a single planting pass to totally fertilize each HA of wheat sounds like junk science to me.

Re:What a bunch of Bullshit (1)

spiked fish (782672) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939415)

Ya fertilizer doesn't cost that much but from what i hear from my cousins this diesel exhaust really works. Their crop they tried it on this year yielded about the same as the fertilized crop and without the upfront cost they are going to do a larger percentage of their field next year.

Re:What a bunch of Bullshit (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939487)

This assumes that the fertilizer actually did something in the first place.

Re:What a bunch of Bullshit (1)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939697)

OMG, YOU'RE RIGHT!!!@@!#

The fertilizing conspiracy explains EVERYTHING, even the alien abductions we've been hearing about for decades.

Re:What a bunch of tractor exhaust (1)

caseih (160668) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939721)

I agree with the junk science bit. As for the price of fertilizer, it's highly variable and is doubtlessly different across the world, depending on the price of natural gas usually, or shipping costs if it's imported. Given that two seasons ago in Alberta, Canada our fertilizer bill was about $200k for 2500 irrigated acres (this season was about $100k), it's not inconceivable that prices could double, triple, or even quadruple, depending on oil prices. Not sure what kind of farm you have, but if it's high yield crops on irrigation in sandy soil, fertilizer costs can be staggering. I agree the article is probably exaggerating the savings, though.

I am amazed at some of the replies. (2, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939393)

First, Diesel COMES from degraded bio matter. So, what is in there? MOSTLY, the same stuff. That means that is contains the same micro elements. As other have pointed out, NOx are being generated and it would appear that these are also being injected. As to the nasty stuff, ALL of those will ALWAYS be generated in a diesel system. AND just about ALL will SINK TO THE GROUND. So wether you inject it into the soil, OR you lay it on the top, it is the same. The question is, is it a small amount? If it is, then not a big deal. And it would appear to be the case.

This approach makes good sense ASSUMING that you are using a diesel tractor. I am guessing that this will be the norm in another 5 years.

You try to make an environmentalist happy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939399)

... and they whine about why the new technique must not replace the old one (which they are also whining about - of course).
I'm morbidly curious how - or if at all - these malcontents would actually envision the ideal society running, but unfortunately that requires handing one over to them, and I don't know of any spare ones.
Thus, I will continue to see all the whiners as replying to articles saying "We solved environmental problem X" not as "wont work - " but rather as "No! Don't take away our reason to complain against the United States. We need to have something to complain about in order to force our ridiculous policies down everyone's throat!"

And for the record - I think the whole thing is an absurd sham since I refuse to believe that a gas that every living creature exhales is going to destroy the world. The world is really big, filled with many strange things we do not yet even comprehend, and certainly not that fragile.

Re:You try to make an environmentalist happy... (2, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939485)

The ONLY one gripping appears to be you. Of course, I am guessing that you grip about any environmentalist no matter what they do. Whats more, I am also going to guess that you will be decrying these guys work in just a short bit as causing a lose of money to oil companies.

Can I get the high sulphur version? (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939431)

I prefer grain that has rotten egg like quality to it.

But really, I can't see there being enough anything in the exhaust to make a big difference. I'm not quite understanding the setup here.

Maybe because diesel+fertilizer = bomb, then
diesel - bomb = fertilizer?
hmm, nope, that would be negative fertilizer. I'm out of ideas.

Global Cooling (1, Flamebait)

RandySC (9804) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939437)

How does avoiding the release of CO2 help prevent global cooling, which is our most pressing concern in the near future.

Re:Global Cooling (1)

Vylen (800165) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939493)

global cooling? Why would we want to prevent that? It's pretty damn hot here and would welcome the colder days anyday!

Don't fear the toxins from the desil exhaust (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29939501)

The first reaction of "oh no heavy metal compounds and other toxins will get into the food" may be a bit of.

Yes it is the case that certain plants will absorb toxins from the ground, but those toxins will generally accumulate in one part of the plant. In some cases this may be the part of the plant we eat. ie coconut milk and shell accumulate many heavy metals. But this is not a big problem.

  There are 3 things worth considering:
  a) testing the food produce for unsafe levels of the toxins in diesel fumes is trivial.
  b) there exists already toxins in our food (for thousands of years) and most human & animal bodies are more than capable of handling a small amount. We have entire organs just for this!
  c) Humans & animals have not evolved with high amounts of toxins in the air. If we are to intake diesel exhaust we are better able to handle it in our digestive system then our respiratory system

It is worthwhile pointing our that globally ash and toxins from coal/petrol/diesel emissions kill around half a million people per year. So you must adjust your thinking from "toxins in food is bad" to "toxins moved away from the atmosphere is good".

Its a similar thing to getting over the fear of "nuclear waste", "recycled drinking water" &"geneticly modified foods". Let the science speak, don't let your fear control you.

-anon

Something very wrong here. (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939659)

CO2 is not a fertiliser, so pumping into the ground will not help plant grow. it will infact KILL your plants as a plants root zone requires O2 to breath and take up nutrients. increasing CO2 is a trick green house growers use, but that's in the air where the leafy matter processes it.

The second problem with this FTA, it that fertiliser does not cost $1200 a tonne.

unless TFA is grossly wrong, this sounds a lot like the "magnetic water" bullshit sold to people.

Coal fire power plants (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29939679)

We have a lot of coal power here in Victoria, Australia and I have long thought that instead of pumping it straight up into the atmosphere we should pump it sideways into huge glasshouses. They could be built as automated food factories because the air in there would not be healthy for humans. The gas venting at the far end should have much less CO2 than when it goes in.

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