The New Generation of Agronomists: Pushing to Net Zero Carbon Footprint
Agronomy has long been the bedrock of agricultural crop production. Crop, soil, and plant sciences have fueled innovations and increases in crop yields for centuries. American universities began incorporating agronomy studies over 100 years ago, formalizing the science to support plant use for food, fuel, fiber, and conservation. Agronomists have had a massive impact on global well-being and play an important role in supporting farmers. They consult and help educate farmers on products and production practices that could be a good fit for their operations, oftentimes, as agricultural companies advisors who support research or sales initiatives.
In the future, agronomists’ opportunity to influence and impact will only grow. Connecting plant and soil science, environmental science, and best practices with the growers who can implement them will become increasingly important as agriculture strives to reach net zero emission of carbon while feeding a growing population. Agriculture is challenged with reducing its carbon footprint while simultaneously grappling with a production environment that’s evolving due to climate change.
Agronomists have a unique opportunity to drive sustainable agriculture and position farmers to adopt next-generation technologies that will improve crop productivity while lowering agriculture’s carbon footprint.
Net Zero Carbon Footprint
Carbon footprint refers to the cumulative greenhouse gasses that are generated by a given set of actions. Common greenhouse gasses include carbon dioxide and methane and can be generated by everyday actions such as driving a car or drying clothes in a clothes washer.
Addressing greenhouse gas emissions is critical for curbing the effects of climate change and ensuring the planet will be habitable in the future. Reaching net zero by 2050 is necessary to keep global warming at a level that will prevent the most devastating effects of climate change. Many countries have a net-zero target, though currently, the global population is not on track to reach net zero by 2050. In fact, global greenhouse gases are projected to rise by 10% by 2030.
Net Zero Emission of Carbon in Agriculture
Reaching net zero carbon emissions to curb the worst effects of climate change requires every industry to do its part in reducing – and eventually negating – their carbon footprint. Agriculture is no different – in fact, it has a strong role to play in reaching net zero emissions of carbon.
The agriculture industry is one of the primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions. A United Nations estimate found the agriculture industry, including its supply chain, contributed 16.5 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2019. 7.2 billion tonnes of that came directly from the farm.
In total, nearly one-third of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions come from global agri-food systems. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that agriculture contributed 11% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2020.
Changes to farming practices can make a real difference in agriculture’s greenhouse gas contributions. By choosing greenhouse gas efficient technologies and practices, farmers can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 20% by 2050.
Those practices include reducing the over-application of nitrogen, variable rate fertilization, dry direct seeding, reduced or no tillage production systems, precise fertilizer timing, controlled release fertilizers, improved rice fertilization and improved rice paddy water management.
Adopting these production practices and technologies isn’t always a straightforward replacement for the current practice. That’s where new-generation agronomists come in – as key players in working on how to reduce carbon footprint in agriculture.
Agronomists’ Opportunity to Drive Net Zero Emissions Home
Agronomists play a key role in farmer adoption of new technologies – from controlled release fertilizers to variable rate fertilization and beyond. In many cases, they will be the ones to write prescriptions for variable rate fertilization, identify the precise growth stages for fertilizer timing, or help define a no-till production system for a farmer.
Armed with the best tools, new-generation agronomists will lead the way in helping farmers determine how to reduce their carbon footprint in agriculture. Their influence with farmers combined with the vast amounts of data generated in agriculture and the digital tools available to them create the perfect opportunity for massive impact.
Agmatix is dedicated to supporting new-generation agronomists in maximizing their impact by helping farmers improve yields and crop quality while reducing their carbon footprint. Digital Crop Advisor specializes in using real-time data to customize crop nutrition, so crops can reach their full potential with minimal environmental impact.
Through this decision support system, agronomists can access tailored crop nutrition optimization with unique, data-driven production recommendations. Digital Crop Advisor is the definition of enhanced crop protocol management, including recommendations for over 150 crops and 12 nutrient data profiles.
But Digital Crop Advisor is more than just optimized nutrition. Sustainability is the backbone of the platform, enabling new-generation agronomists to rely on it with confidence as they work with farmers to reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint. It’s a true carbon footprint optimizer for agriculture. Sustainable nutrient recommendations are included with each plan, created based on the carbon footprint analysis of the plan.
Agronomists can also go deeper into sustainability with Digital Crop Advisor. Simulations can be run on various scenarios to compare recommendations and understand tradeoffs between yield and environmental impact. Controlled release fertilizers – one of the key technologies that can reduce emissions – can be selected within the system. And the algorithm automatically adjusts crop nutrition needs to prevent over-fertilization. This science-based approach improves both the grower and environmental outcomes.
Digital Crop Advisor includes an agriculture carbon footprint calculator that helps users to understand the carbon footprint rate for different nutrition plans. Based on field characteristics like soil type, pH, and organic matter as well as environmental conditions, agronomic practices, crop type, fertilizer type, application timing, and residue management, the system can determine greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint. This tool is instrumental in helping agronomists lead farmers toward sustainable approaches and a net zero future.
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The New Generation of Agronomists Leads the Way
Agronomists have always been critical for driving product and production practice adoption on farms. In the 21st century, agronomists will carry the flag of net zero at the field level. Agmatix isn’t just cheering them on, but supplying them with the tools they need to confidently and effectively lead farmers to net zero emissions.