Five Ways Farmers Are Lowering Their Carbon Footprint
By Kara Masterson
When we hear about global warming and discussions centered on subjects like carbon footprint, often the loss of food crops and other damages farmers suffer is at the heart of the matter.
What many people don’t realize is that farmers themselves contribute much to the adverse effects of climate change. Two of the leading contributors to the increase in global warming are the greenhouse gases methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20). The single industry that generates the largest volume of those gases is the agricultural industry. Farmers, through their crops and livestock, account for 50 percent of the methane and 60 percent of the nitrous oxide worldwide.
Here are some steps the modern farmer, through education and diligence, can take to reduces his negative carbon footprint and still operate an efficient and profitable agricultural business.
More efficient tillage
Farmers still use age-old techniques of plowing fields to prepare the land for planting. They may not be aware that doing so releases large quantities of carbon from the tilled soil which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. .
Solution: By using less-intensive plowing methods known as conservation tillage, the release of carbon from the soil can be greatly reduced. The simple act of leaving the previous year’s crop residue like corn stalk and wheat stems on the field instead of plowing it under not only helps reduce erosion but helps to keep the carbon trapped in the soil.
Crops need water in order to grow. As the water tables drop lower each year around the country, farmers are forced to use more electricity and fossil fuel to pump it out of the ground.
Solution: More efficient irrigation systems produce less water wastage and lower operating costs. Drip lines that guide small quantities of water directly onto individual plants in certain crops will more than pay for themselves in reduced fuel costs and water usage.
Farmers use incredible amounts of animal feed each year to feed their animals. That is tons of food that is produced each day using lots of energy and materials. Production like this can also create significant amounts of waste.
Solution: It is essential for Farmers to do their research before choosing an animal feed company. By doing research farmers are able to find companies with more energy efficient equipment. They should be looking for somewhere with animal feed processing equipment that provides the least amount of breakage and waste. There are so many different animal feed companies out there that give farmers the opportunity to choose the greenest company to work with.
It’s been proven that the excessive use of nitrogenous fertilizers by farmers over the years has had a significant impact on our climate. The manufacturing, transport and application of chemical fertilizers over the past 50 years have contributed a huge portion of the greenhouse gas burden we are now facing.
Solution: The magic word is “organic.” By using natural organic fertilizers in place of harmful chemical-based fertilizers, a farmer can do much to reduce his carbon footprint. Something as simple as a compost pit to collect food scraps from the table can generate excellent organic fertilizer for the family garden and further reduce the need for chemical fertilizers. ‘
It’s no secret that the loss of the world’s forested areas contributes to global warming.
Solution: Tree restoration, the act of planting of tree seedlings to renew former treed areas, can enhance carbon storage. According to one study conducted by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, tree restoration and the prevention of deforestation has the largest and most immediate positive impact on carbon emission in the short term.
One way for the general public to help in reducing carbon footprints is to shop at local farmer’s markets for food that is raised nearby. By shortening the distance from field to market, less fuel is consumed for transportation.
Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from West Jordan, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah and enjoys writing and spending time with her dog, Max. She loves to connect with people on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/kara.masterson.58.