10 things that farmers can implement to make a difference

Farming is one of the greatest sectors contributing to climate change.
At every stage of food production, from storing, processing, transport and packaging,
There is an impact on climate change with greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. There is only going to be a greater need to produce food with a growing population and less land to do so which poses an even greater threat to climate change.
With the most recent figure released of less than 8 years before irreversible climate change occurs, we need to make changes urgently more than ever.
Starting with the production of food, which contributes to roughly half of human produced methane emissions, change needs to happen now and luckily for the agricultural sector, a lot more things can be done to make a difference.
Listed below are 10 things that farmers can implement to make a difference globally to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
1. SOS – Save our Soil!
Soil is the biggest untapped reservoir to store carbon – 1cm of topsoil can take 1000 years to produce in optimal conditions.
This is being prevented by the constant grazing, ploughing and harvesting of intensive agriculture.
There are many important processes that happen in the soil that can be immediately prevented when the soil is disturbed.
This includes the activity of worms which have been shown by Darwin and more recently in scientific literature the importance of in soil health.
2. Say goodbye to cash crops and monoculture
This is directly reducing the quality of the soil as the same nutrients are being taken from the soil on a yearly basis.
Crops like maize, soya and palm are being grown in such great quantities covering 1000s of hectares, the soil is constantly under high demand for the same nutrients.
Having different crops on a rotation helps keep the soil fertile, so the yield per crop will be higher and the soil can be used for longer periods of time without detriment.
3. Keep agriculture green
Incorporating trees into crops helps protect soil, crops and enhances biodiversity. Not only does this help with the crops but it also contributes to the most recent plea of David Attenborough to ‘REWILD’ nature. This also mimics ecosystem services that would happen in a natural state.
4. Size isn’t everything
Small-scale, domestic producers are becoming more and more important. There has been an increase in subsistence style, small scale farmers on a global scale where countries such as Cambodia, Nepal and Kenya. This is especially noticeable since the outbreak of COVID-19; with a reduced workforce, less demand for food from the commercial sector and tighter travel restrictions, local farmers have never been more important for people to ensure they can get their food.
5. Urban is the new rural
farms need to be utilized efficiently for the potential of vertical crops. This is again linked to the new world of farming post COVID-19 as more people are relying on small scale, local farms. More urban farms with rooftop vegetable patches, and vertical greenhouses can be utilized to create a new bubble of food supply for cities.
6. Going Organic
Following organic practice where possible on the larger farms with machinery does not only have a positive impact on overall soil health and crop quality but also the surrounding environment. Practice include crop rotation, natural fertilizers and reusing animal or green waste on the crops. Farmers are often put off by the concept of committing fully to organic farming, as it is seen as more expensive and laborious, but after an initial adjustment period, they will notice more of a change in the overall quality of crop, and farm ecosystem as a whole.
7. Working smarter, not harder
by encouraging farmers to work with the land means they can be more efficient with inputs of fertilizer or water. This means paying closer attention to the soil and crops and only using fertilizer in areas/fields that are needed. There is the risk of overusing fertilizers which has implications in the local water systems and can also make the plants intolerant to the effects so the farmers would be wasting money and time.
8. Covering the ground/keeping the ground warm
Otherwise known as mulching and cover crops this involves covering bare land with hay and other used crops to prevent insects and pests. This has been traditionally done with strawberries with success, so can be applied to other crops.
9. Stay seasonal
this will not only help the farmers’ yields stay high as they can optimize crops for the weather without having to use excessive heating in greenhouses in winter, or irrigation methods in summer, but also encourage more people to buy local and seasonal produce which reduces the carbon emissions associated.
10. Education = solution.
This is probably the most important one of all as without all the correct information, farmers and consumers won’t know what to believe and implement into their daily lifestyles.
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