"A coco plantation makes a good carbon sink - study"
By: Rita dela Cruz
Philippine Star


MANILA, Philippines - Productive and sustainable coconut farming ecosystems are potential “carbon sinks” that can minimize the effects of climate change, according to Dr. Severino S. Magat of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

In paper presented during a seminar titled “Coconut: Its Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change” sponsored by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), Dr. Magat said coconut lands could be developed for income generating carbon sequestration projects and carbon credit market.

He pointed out that the Philippines has 3.2 million hectares planted to 325 million coconut trees.

A recent study on the carbon storage capacities (CSC) of agricultural ecosystems in the country found that coconut had a high carbon storage capacity which was measured at 24.1 tons carbon per hectare per year.

Coconut was also found to have the most stable C storage, being a perennial crop with almost nil burning of crop residues in place at the farm compared to other agricultural crops such as rice and sugarcane.

Positive values of actual ecosystem C balance, according to Dr. Magat, “indicates that carbon is sequestered from the atmosphere and stored in the plantation.”

And given more refinements on the variability in findings, Dr. Magat said these positive values on carbon sequestration in coconut-based agro-ecosystems could provide accurate and objective information and data for a carbon/market. 

The CO2 intake of plants is considered as carbon sequestered which for the trees are stored in various parts of their body. Carbon stored in plants other than the stem wood or trunk are generally decomposable biomass which eventually becomes a part of the soil organic matter (SOM) of which the more stable component is the 50-percent soil organic carbon (SOC).

In coconut, similar to most tree crops, carbon is stored or sequestered both by the biomass and the soil of the ecosystem, indicating that the biomass and the soil are the main carbon sinks of atmospheric CO2. These “sinks” could be regulated and managed to a great extent by following proper cropping practices, Dr. Magat explained.

CO2 is reported to be the most significant and reference “green house” gas among the GHGs produced by human activities primarily due to the combustion of fossil fuels. This causes the earth’s temperature to increase, hence an erratic change in climates. 

Dr. Magat noted three key strategies to lower CO2 gas emissions: 1) reduce global energy use, 2) develop low or carbonless fuel, and 3) sequester CO2 from point source or atmosphere through natural or engineering techniques.

His recommendation of productive and sustainable coconut farming ecosystems falls under the third strategy.

He noted that coconut plantations or farm ecosystems could be used to reduce CO2 emissions via C capture or sequestration in the crop-soil system through: 1) substitution of fossil fuel using biodiesel or biomass from coconut oil, 2) sequestration of C in coconut plantation, mono-crop or with intercrops, 3) enhancing C sequestration through coconut plantation management, and 4) conserving C sink in coconut farms.

Dr. Magat recommends that more formal and scientific collaborative studies by coconut producing countries and agencies concerned be conducted.