Climate change is one of the biggest threats to the world and has created challenges for agriculture in particular. The world is already suffering from food security issues and production cannot keep up with demand. A report from the Food and Agriculture Organized of the United Nations (FAO) showed that 8.9% of the global population are hungry – almost 690 million people. With the global population estimated to reach 9 billion people by 2050, this issue will only worsen.
Changes in the weather, increasing temperatures, more extreme events, and invasive pests and crops result in the decreased nutritional quality of food, reduced crop yields and lower livestock productivity. Whilst conventional agricultural practices have contributed to climate change, agriculture can also be a solution. Embracing sustainable agriculture and green practices can allow agriculture to play a major role in reducing climate change. In this article, we will discuss how this can be achieved.
How Agriculture Affects Climate Change
Conventional and industrial agriculture is partly to blame for the current climate change crisis the world is facing. In fact, 17% of current greenhouse gas emissions are a direct result of agricultural activities. A further 7-14% of greenhouse gas emissions result from changes in land use. This includes nitrous oxide emissions from manure, soil, animal urine, fertiliser and methane production from rice cultivation and animals. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), these gases have a higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide.
In addition to this, one-third of the food produced globally is either wasted or lost every year. This is approximately 1.3 billion tonnes. This waste, combined with greenhouse gas emissions and other practices, causes stress on the environment and contributes to climate change.
Agriculture and Climate Change Mitigation
Agriculture may have contributed to the climate change problems we face today, but it can also be a part of the solution. Agriculture can play a large role in climate change mitigation by reducing tillage, planting cover crops, investing in soil protection, and utilising crop rotation. Sustainable agriculture practices can impact climate change, reduce input costs and increase yield and water quality.
Embracing Renewable Energy
Fossil fuels are a major contributor to climate change. Farming and agriculture can become greener by becoming more -efficient and shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. This includes minimising petroleum-based pesticides and fertilisers, reducing fossil fuel inputs for storage and transportation, and installing solar panels and wind turbines to produce more renewable energy.
Plant materials and animal waste can also be used in energy production and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Through investments in biofuels and bioenergy, agriculture can make a huge difference in climate change mitigation by tackling fossil fuel use.
Improving Soil Health and Nutrition
Conservation agriculture is a part of sustainable agriculture that focuses on improving soil health. Farmers can embrace this by reducing tillage, planting cover crops and practicing crop rotation and diversification.
Carbon farming can be especially useful since plants can use photosynthesis to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and into the soil. While the natural carbon-carrying capacity of soil is limited, temporary storage can provide benefits while a more permanent solution is found. This not only feeds microorganisms, but also provide nutrients to the soil and plants by acting as a natural fertiliser. By increasing soil health and reducing erosion, agricultural workers can also contribute to water conservation by preventing water contamination.
Droughts are becoming increasingly common, making it essential to conserve water. Making irrigation management more efficient should be a priority because of the amount of electricity it consumes. Because increasing efficiency in irrigation will result in less electricity consumption, it can have a major impact on reducing both fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Farmers can also use methods like planting cover crops, dry farming, and drip irrigation as alternatives to conventional irrigation.
Reducing Methane Emissions from Livestock
Methane emissions from livestock are a big part of greenhouse gas emissions. Over 95% of methane emissions can be attributed to livestock, with 40% of these emissions resulting from the digestive processes of cattle. Both dairy and cattle create harmful emissions through manure and digestive processes and can even pollute the water supply. Livestock management practices like rotational grazing can make a big impact since grass is better for digestion, and animal hooves can help break up manure and soil and thus, fertilise the land.
These emissions can also be reduced by making fertiliser use more efficient, including making the timing and placement of the fertiliser more precise. In doing this, farmers can prevent nutrient runoff and improve water quality. Improving herd management and increasing the percentage of cows producing calves can also help decrease emissions per unit of beef.
Switching to Organic Practices
Industrial agriculture has led to the usage of petroleum-based fertilisers, pesticides, and herbicides. By embracing more organic practices, farmers can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and produce cleaner food. This also has significant effects on cleaner soil and water. By using organic practices, farmers can also increase soil health and fertility and encourage biodiversity.
Land Management and Protection
Land management may seem simple, but practices like planting hedgerows and perennial plants and reforesting lands have many advantages. In addition to providing shelter for wildlife, this can attract insects for pollination and pest control. Since vegetation also acts as a carbon sink, this also removes carbon dioxide from the air, protects soil from erosion, and prevents water contamination.
Land protection is also important. Arable land is rapidly decreasing and affecting wildlife, food production, and biodiversity. Protecting farmland is essential to preserve food sources, keep biodiversity intact, and protect wildlife habitats. Additionally, land conservation will help with carbon-sequestering efforts and ultimately help in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Agricultural Jobs Amid Climate Change Mitigation Efforts
From sustainable agriculture and conservation agriculture to better land management practices, there are plenty of agricultural jobs that can aid in the reduction of climate change. An increasing number of people are drawn to agricultural jobs because of their ability to make a difference and impact climate change.
If you want to work in sustainable agriculture and contribute to climate change mitigation, Agricultural Recruitment Specialists can help. We’re known across the UK, Europe and the world for connecting the finest farming talent with major brands and organisations. If you’re looking for an agricultural job that suits you, look through our job portal or register with us here.