Keeping agriculture green: joining the fight in climate change
Changes in surface temperatures, the timing of seasons, and the frequency and severity of weather events, such as droughts, floods, heatwaves, and runaway fires have become commonplace.
These climatic disturbances and their consequences have all been attributed to global warming created by an excess of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Agriculture without which the planet would starve contributes approximately ten percent to total global CO2 emissions.
Agricultural activities using chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and animal gases and wastes contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
The stronger demand for dairy and meat products and the intensification of agricultural practices are bound to increase because of a growing global population.
Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, which makes the Earth warmer. By trapping heat from the sun, greenhouse gases have kept Earth’s climate habitable for humans and millions of other species. Without them, as a buffer, the earth would be uninhabitable. This trapping of heat is known as the greenhouse effect.
The greenhouse effect is a good thing. It warms the planet to its comfortable average of 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius) and keeps life on earth livable.
Without it, the world would be a frozen, uninhabitable place, more like Mars.
Our problem is that mankind’s voracious burning of fossil fuels for energy is artificially amping up the natural greenhouse effect. The result? An increase in global warming is altering the planet’s climate systems in countless ways.
Global warming needs to be restricted to a commonly agreed 2 degrees oC above preindustrial levels as failure to do so will result in an unpredictable and dangerous impact on humanity and the earth’s ecosystem. Human activities are responsible for almost all of the increase.
The abundance of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere once again reached a new record last year, with the annual rate of increase above the 2011-2020 average according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.
The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities is burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation with agriculture on its own contributing approximately 10 %.
Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide—the most dangerous and prevalent greenhouse gas—are at the highest levels ever recorded.
Today, climate change is the term scientists use to describe the complex shifts, driven by greenhouse gas concentrations, that are now affecting our planet’s weather and climate systems.
Climate change encompasses not only the rising average temperatures we refer to as global warming but also extreme weather events, shifting wildlife populations and habitats, rising seas, and a range of other impacts.
What are the major greenhouse gases?
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) – 65% from burning organic materials like coal, oil, gas, wood, and solid waste.
- Methane (CH4) – 16% from landfills, natural gas and petroleum industries, and agriculture, especially from the digestive systems of grazing animals, and fermenting manure.
- Nitrous Oxide (N2O)- 6% from agriculture and livestock, including fertilizer, manure, and the burning of agricultural residues, along with burning fuel.
- Fluorinated gases- 2% such as hydrofluorocarbons are used as refrigerants, solvents, and in manufacturing.
It’s important to note that different greenhouse gases persist in the atmosphere for different periods, and they also absorb different amounts of heat. The “global warming potential” (or “GWP”) of a GHG indicates the amount of warming a greenhouse gas causes over a given period (normally 100 years) by persisting in the atmosphere.
Greenhouse gases can also be compared to each other on a level playing field by using the CO2e or carbon dioxide equivalent. This is the number of metric tons of CO2 emissions with the same global warming potential as one metric ton of another greenhouse gas.
Over this time frame, according to the standard data, methane scores 25 (meaning that one ton of methane will cause the same amount of warming as 25 tons of CO2), nitrous oxide comes in at 298 and some of the super-potent F-gases score more than 10,000.
Reducing agricultural emissions
In order to reduce greenhouse gas and carbon emissions from agriculture, farming methods must become more sustainable and produce food more efficiently.
With the use of proper GHG-efficient farming practices– some of which are alredy being used– a reduction of emissions in the sector of about 20 percent could be achieved by 2050.
Some carbon-friendly agricultural practices include efficient irrigation management like drip irrigation, dry farming where the only source of water is rainfall, dew, and existing soil moisture, cover crops, using renewable energy, and improving soil health.
Efficient irrigation management
Conserving water use is vital to any farm, particularly in times of drought. Methods like drip irrigation and carefully scheduled irrigation ensure water is used wisely.
Drip irrigation systems deliver water directly to a plant’s roots, reducing the evaporation that happens with spray watering systems. Timers can be used to schedule watering for the cooler parts of the day, further reducing water loss.
Using renewable energy
Maximizing energy efficiency and shifting away from fossil fuels are important steps that farms can take to reduce their climate footprint.
This can be done by using solar panels, wind turbines and minimizing the use of petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides for farming, storage, and transportation.
Increasing soil health
By planting trees and cover crops as CO2 absorbers via photosynthesis, farmers can compensate for some of their agricultural emissions.
About 40% of that carbon then gets deposited into the soil, where it feeds microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes.
Those creatures, in return, provide mineral nutrients to the plants as a natural fertilizer.
Other healthy practices include compost application planting cover crops and reduced or no-till cultivation.
Keeping agriculture green
Farmers can introduce land management practices such as reforesting rangelands, restoring riparian zones, and planting hedgerows and other perennial plants. These not only store carbon in their biomass but also protect the soil from erosion and conserve water.
Added benefits are that they provide shelter for wildlife, beautify farms, attract beneficial insects for pollination, and is also a natural pest control components of greening our planet.
Reducing livestock methane emissions
It is vital to reduce methane emissions from beef and dairy livestock. Methane reducing additives can be included in feedstock which inhibits the formation of methane. Methane-reducing feed additives and supplements are most effective when grain, hay, or silage is added to the diet, especially in beef feedlots and dairies.
Through anaerobic decomposition, manure ponds on industrial dairy and cattle farms create harmful methane emissions. If phosphates and nitrogen from manure ponds reach bodies of water, it can cause eutrophication due to an oversupply of nutrients and resultant choking of water reservoirs.
Farmland is being lost due to development pressures for housing and industry. In the face of increased demand for food supply, production becomes intensified with negative implications for global warming. Sustainable intensification, an effort to increase crop yields with fewer inputs and without expanding land use, seeks to balance these priorities.
Supporting farmers markets and local food
Did you know that food in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to the consumers? Most of this shipping uses fossil fuels and other natural resources and generates GHG emissions.
Supporting local farmers at the farmer’s market keeps farming viable so that farmers can stay on their land and be successful in growing food that sustains us while caring for the earth.
All these actions can be employed to reduce the many sources of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.
Agmatix, in its quest for sustainable, environmentally friendly agricultural practices has launched a revolutionary technology platform that drives the agronomic innovation cycle from research and experimental data into meaningful real-life actions.
Our system provides information that’s required to make better crop management decisions, resulting in better yields, decreasing food waste, and ultimately improving food security and reducing global hunger.
By using AI, big data, and machine learning, our Crop Advisor decision support system calculates, manages, and reduces excess CO2 emissions from the atmosphere by evaluating and changing agronomical field practices by suggesting decisions that will reduce the overall carbon emissions in agriculture.
The system can calculate a nutritional plan for a specific field. The system predicts its carbon footprint and its immediate impact based on field parameters, environmental conditions, agronomic practices, crop type, fertilizer type, and timing of application.
Ron Baruchi, CEO of Agmatix comments, “Growers, agronomists, researchers and ag industry experts are tackling today’s biggest challenge – providing food security for the world’s growing population “.
As a technologically disruptive and environmentally responsible company, Agmatix has adopted a revolutionary approach to agricultural practices to promote improved crop yields, nutritional quality, and sustainable agriculture, ultimately assisting the agricultural industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprints.
This has positive consequences for greenhouse gas reduction, stabilization of climate change, better environmental management, and an overall reduction of carbon footprints.
While achieving all the foregoing environmental benefits, the Agmatix Digital Crop Advisor will improve crop management decision-making.
This in turn will pave the way to better crop yields, improve grower profits, decrease food waste, and ultimately reduce global poverty and hunger.