Farming: Friend or foe to climate change?

Filed in Gather Business News Channel by on December 7, 2012 0 Comments

The answer to a cleaner climate is through the stomach, according to a new report by the Worldwatch Institute. Sustainable agriculture is the key.

“Practices such as using animal manure rather than artificial fertilizer, planting trees on farms to reduce soil erosion and sequester carbon, and growing food in cities all hold huge potential for reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint,” said Laura Reynolds, a co-author of a report released Dec. 5. It outlines how simple measures could aid irrigation and ease erosion.

Sustainable farming seems to work where it have been tried. In North Korea, for instance, farmers rotate rice and potato crops on the same land. Workers intensely turn the soil to prepare for potatoes, but the rice serves as a cover crop keeping topsoil in place.

A U.N. panel says weather related shifts are “likely the reason behind” increased incidences of weather extremes such as drought.” The report links droughts in eastern Africa, Russia and the U.S. Midwest between 2010-2012. The earth has always seen cyclical environmental changes.

Currently, food production is blamed for adding up to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. The United Nations estimates farming could reduce or remove up to 88 percent of carbon dioxide that it currently emits.

The problem is industrial farming methods use too much fertiziler and build methane from animal discharges. However, modern technology allow farm operations to create biofuel and energize their businesses. In addition, manure can be used as a more healthy alternative to chemical fertilizer.

Never mind it is industrial farming that has feed the world during the recent draughts.

Small-scale farming in developing countries has the potential to contribute 70 percent of agriculture’s global mitigation of greenhouse gasses, according to Innovations in Sustainable Agriculture: Supporting Climate-Friendly Food Production.

Much of the focus is on undeveloped countries and how seemingly inexpensive changes can be employed by farmers clear the air. Planting indigenous crop varieties and using water-saving irrigation pumps could accomplish this.

Some of the alternatives suggested in the report, also co-authored by Danielle Nierenberg, include:

  • Avoiding unnecessary tilling or raising both crops and livestock on the same land;
  • Plant trees on farms to reduce soil erosion;
  • Growing food in cities; and
  • Recycling wastewater in cities, using precise watering techniques such as drip irrigation rather than sprinklers, and catching and storing rainwater, all help to reduce the strain on water resources.

The changes are reasonable particularly in developing countries that must learn to feed their own populations.

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