Tomorrow Talks

Thomas Kukovec

Tropical Agronomist and Field Biologist Regional Director MENA and Sub-Saharan Africa of GLOBAL CARBON FARMING, Conservation Farming & Climate-smart Agriculture by TECHNIK-PLUS

Thomas Kukovec is an Austro-Italian tropical Agronomist and Field Biologist. As Head Agronomist of an agricultural machinery manufacturer, he has shaped the "Global Carbon Farming" project in the Middle East and Africa.

Prior to this, he worked as a Crop Protectionist and field- and greenhouse trial manager for an European agri holding and also had his own consultancy- and farm management firm with a particular focus on subtropical and semi-arid agriculture.

He's member of the Italian Geographical Society (SGI) and member of the Scientific Advisory Board of its Africa Relations Centre (CRA), responsible for agricultural issues. As a passionate Sahel plant expert and nature photographer (LEICA user), he is particularly interested in the phytogeographical biodiversity of the Sahel Belt.

Questions & Answers

1. Carbon farming has become the buzzword lately. How do you see the trend shaping up across different geographies?

Carbon farming has also become a buzzword, of course, and it covers a wide range. On the one hand, the NGO, UN and development agencies use this slogan for advertising purposes, and ultimately, we do too. But from a purely scientific and technical point of view, it refers to sustainable practices that have always been used to improve soil life and prevent erosion.

2. In terms of science behind carbon agriculture, we have still some distance to go before accurate estimates can be made. Is the complexity likely to slow down the adoption?

As I mentioned, there are many "Carbon Farming" methods that were used before the "buzzword", such as cover crops seeding and intercropping. If it has an economic benefit, then it will always be used. We, for example, also recycle the tractor exhaust emissions and blow them back into the soil (while seeding or tilling) to upgrade the soil fertility and enhance the soil life (Diesel exhaust fumes contain N and C, which are crucial plant nutrients and the containing HC stimulates the metabolism of ubiquitous hydrocarbonoclastic soil bacteria, which further makes soil-bond P better accessible for the crop plants)

3. You have worked on both traditionally sustainable agricultural methods as well as digital farming ones. Did you see them coming together in any of your projects?

I must say that the role of digitalisation in agriculture is overestimated. Only large farmers or plantations or highly subsidised farmers in the EU can afford to deal with it and gain an advantage, but a commercial farm between 5-500 ha has (still) other priorities.

4. Concerns about sustainability in commercial crops is growing. Given your expertise in these crops, can you quote some examples of how these concerns are being addressed?

As mentioned above, cover crops are an important method to fix nitrogen (and carbon) in the soil, to control erosion and to improve the soil fertility in general. Green intercropping is an important habitat for beneficial insects (pollinators), but also trees are important (buzzword "agroforestry") to protect from wind or too intense sun. This may be classified as a sustainability issue, but for me, it is simply an economic necessity.

5. What will you advise to agriculture or food companies looking to make carbon farming a part of their operations?

First evaluate your problems (erosion, too much solar radiation, lack of nutrients?) and then choose the method that seems reasonable to you to counteract it.

About SourceTrace

SourceTrace is a SaaS (Software As A Service) company that focuses on sustainable agriculture and empowerment of farmers.

SourceTrace's advanced technology platform DATAGREEN provides comprehensive solutions to manage all aspects of the agricultural value chain.

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