What is Sustainable Farming?
According to The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, sustainable farming is the efficient production of safe, high-quality agricultural products while improving the social and economic circumstances of farmers, their workers, and local communities. It also protects the welfare and health of all farmed species.
From that explanation alone, you can understand how sustainable farming aids in lessening the impact farming has on global warming. This is vital since farming is one of the major worldwide contributors to climate change, which we must quickly regulate as it is becoming more prevalent than ever.
In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the decade from 2010 to 2019 was the hottest since record-keeping began 140 years ago and that the oceans are at the highest temperature they’ve ever been. The urgency of correcting the effects of global warming is brought home by these worrying developments. An effective way to lessen the impact that global warming and climate change have on our planet is by putting sustainable farming into practice.
In agriculture, large amounts of the potent greenhouse gases, nitrous oxide and methane, are released into the air. With the cruciality of food production, it becomes difficult to completely eliminate these processes, but with adjustments to the workflow, these changes can make a huge difference toward global warming.
In this guide, we will discuss the following topics:
Farming’s Contribution to Global Warming
Between plants and livestock, agriculture is a practice that has been in place for thousands of years, and with the introduction of agricultural equipment like tractors and plows, its carbon footprint has increased immensely. There have been talks of making tractors run more environmentally friendly, but this would mean that they would have less power, and when you’re working on a farm with heavy machinery, it’s a hard sacrifice to make. It may be necessary to do so, however, as E&E News reports that agricultural machinery released upwards of 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2019.
The fact that this astronomically large amount of dangerous gas is not even the highest contributor to global warming is appalling. Of course, leading the pack is the meat and dairy industry. According to The European Environment Agency, a whopping 14.5% of all global emissions are due to livestock.
Along with livestock, the following are some of the top causes of climate change:
- Oil Drilling
- Power Plants
- Oil and Gas
With all of these massive contributors to climate change, there are few that feel in our control. It’s important that we, especially companies, practice waste recycling, reduce energy consumption, use sustainable products, as well as other efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and help lessen the effects of global warming.
Sustainable Farming Methods
There are several sustainable farming solutions that can help reverse some of the effects of climate change. Although these have not been fully implemented worldwide, there is more action taken every day to aid in a cleaner earth, and there is hope that one day, sustainable farming will be the only practiced method. Eco Canada tells us that by reducing our global usage of pesticides and fertilizers, and putting more of a highlight on natural processes to practice the best pest control, there would be a noticeable impact environmentally.
Below are some further examples of sustainable farming methods:
- Planting Hedgerows
- Crop Rotation/Planting Cover Crops
- Natural Livestock Raising
These hedges would invite several different species of birds of prey into the area, which would help in actively keeping small pests and rodents from destroying crops, meaning less chemicals from pesticides are needed.
Doing this reduces the amount of fertilizer required for the soil, as different plants provide varying types of nutrients, increasing the soil’s health and longevity.
Agroforestry is the practice of planting trees in the same location as crops and grazing fields. The trees not only shield crops from dangerous weather, but they also benefit the land by providing a healthy microclimate for the plants to thrive within the soil.
This one may sound obvious, but allowing different livestock, like cattle, sheep, pigs, etc. the ability to live freely and roam in their natural habitat helps enrich the land that they graze on by aerating the soil with their movement, and keeping pests at bay with their presence.
This extremely innovative farming technique is when you use aquatic life, usually fish, to aid in the growth of your hydroponic plants. Hydroponic is the act of growing crops without soil, but rather growing the roots directly in water with added nutrients. The aquatic life nurtures the plants, and the water is then recycled back through the plants for the fish. It’s a very beneficial and organic system.
Keeping a healthy farm is stressful enough, but keeping up with pest control can feel like a whole other job! This pest control inspection checklist can aid you in your efforts so you can focus on being more sustainable.
How Has Climate Change Impacted Farming?
We’ve talked a lot about how farming has affected climate change, but of course, the same can be said the other way around. The Government of Canada reminds us that weather and climate play the majority of the part in the development of the crops, and that when rainfall and temperatures are affected by climate change, it can cause serious problems for farmers everywhere.
With drought, as well as flooding, affecting parts of the world at all times, the land either grows barren and is incapable of producing crops, or the soil becomes drenched and drowns any growth. Extreme weather can often be pointed back to global warming, so without climate change, there would be less of a chance of dried up or soaked soil.
A good example of how drought can severely affect a farms production is in the British documentary titled “Clarkson’s Farm”, or as the lead of the show would come to call it, “Diddly Squat Farm”, indicating its lack of profitability and growth. A dry-spell so volatile that it made growing vegetables impossible and made trees shed their leaves really brought home the importance of good weather in farming.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that the rise in carbon dioxide can decrease the nutritional value of crops, and can even affect protein and essential mineral levels in food products like wheat and rice. The depletion of essential nutrients in our foods is a direct hit to our health as the human species, and it is all thanks to climate change.
What Is The Future Of Sustainable Farming?
Although the state of our environment can sometimes feel grim, with recent technologies and studies being tried and tested, there is hope for a more sustainable future. According to AZO Life Sciences, the agriculture industry is currently experiencing its fourth “technological revolution”, meaning its bringing in and utilizing inventive technologies that are aiding farmers in completing work and being more sustainable. These technologies could see the whole industry morph into something completely different, in a positive and futuristic way!
With the use of drones for an easier overall visual of these large properties, farmers are more easily able to detect the health of their lands, and make appropriate changes if necessary, rather than use an offroad vehicle for length distances and contribute to CO2 emissions. They are also implementing the use of sensors to measure things like temperature, air quality, pollution levels, soil quality, and sunlight positioning to aid in healthy crop growth.
Vertical farming, a technique that involves growing vegetation indoors and stacking the plants, is expected to become the norm in the upcoming years. Babylon Micro-Farms tells as that, as there are no environmental factors to worry about, verticle farming eliminates the need for pesticides and excessive water use, and allows for year-round plant production and lower carbon emissions. This practice could be the turning point for our global health.
In the meantime, there are many resources available to aid your farm in becoming certified organic, and this organic system plan template can be your first stop in making sure you’re qualified to do so.