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Tropical Staple Trees Would Save 20.19 Gigatons of Carbon by 2050

Joachim Huber/Wikimedia Commons

Tropical staple trees rank #14 on Drawdown’s list of climate solutions. This option could eliminate 20.19 gigatons of atmospheric carbon dioxide at a cost of $US120.1 billion, producing savings of $627 billion.

Tropical staple trees fall under the category of perennial crops, and are an effective way to produce food while sequestering carbon. Bananas, avocados, and Brazil nuts are just some of the many examples of the critical foods these crops produce.

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Unlike annuals, perennial tree crops do not need to be planted and replanted each year, and that means less carbon released into the air. Yet the majority of cultivated land, at around three billion acres world-wide, is devoted to annuals. Perennials staple crops occupy only 116 million acres of land, but sequester 1.9 tons of carbon per acre each year.

Drawdown notes that staple tree crops can’t be harvested mechanically, but that’s not necessarily a disadvantage. On the contrary, farmers in less wealthy countries can thrive with staple tree crops that don’t require access to large-scale equipment.

Tropical staple tree crops can grow in areas where annuals cannot, and they’re less high-maintenance. “They require less fuel, fertilizer, and pesticide, if any at all, and there is virtually no tillage after planting,” Drawdown reports. Not only that, but these crops are more resilient to changing and extreme climate and weather conditions. For example, the enset tree can survive for up to eight years in a drought by going dormant, then revive when the rain returns.

The benefits of tropical staple trees are varied. As more land is converted to support these crops, the chapter concludes, the impact will be felt on many levels: from the environment, to food security, to the livelihoods of farmers in the global South.