Here are eight doable agricultural practices to mitigate the impacts of global climate change.
Billions of dollars were lost due to unpredictable climate changes all over the world. While debate rages on, whether climate change is man-induced or not, resolute actions must be done to mitigate the impacts associated with this global phenomenon.
It was originally pointed out by this author that the major contribution modern agricultural practices make to the global climate change scenario are emissions of greenhouse gases namely methane and carbon dioxide (see Regoniel, 2010). Since current agricultural practices is the recognized source of these greenhouse gas emissions, mitigation must therefore address issues concerning reduction of these greenhouse gases either through emission prevention or sequestration of atmospheric emissions especially of carbon.
How then can agricultural practices prevent or minimize greenhouse gas emissions as well as sequester back what has been emitted into the atmosphere?
Hereunder are eight doable agricultural practices to mitigate the impacts of global climate change:
1. Plant crop varieties that better reflect sunlight back out to space.
By planting crops that have high reflectivity or albedo, summertime temperatures could be reduced by more than one degree Celsius in places like Eurasia and central North America. This approach is referred to as bio-geoengineering. Selection of crops that have high reflectivity can reflect sunlight back out into space and lower global air temperature.
2. Undertake organic farming.
Organic farming enhances soil quality particularly in keeping the soil moist. Done on a large scale, these agricultural practices can prevent drying of land and land degradation due to the use of chemicals fertilizers.
3. Apply fertilizer precisely.
To reduce excessive emission of greenhouse gases as well as water pollution due to unabsorbed fertilizers, precise application of fertilizers is recommended by scientists.
4. Reduce consumption of meat.
Reducing the consumption of meat products on a global scale can decrease the amount of methane-producing animals raised to supply global demand for meat. This will also reduce land areas that need to be cleared for cattle grazing. These grazing lands can be grown with cover crops instead to serve as carbon sinks or storage. Also, crops with high albedo reflects back excessive sunlight into space as pointed out earlier.
5. Grow diverse crop varieties.
Growing diverse crop varieties that are less reliant on fertilizer and fossil fuel inputs can reduce crop vulnerability to unpredictable weather changes. This will be much more advantageous than monoculture farms which are susceptible, not only to extreme climatic conditions, but also to pest outbreaks during abnormal climate conditions such as those brought about by El Niño. Planting crops with a wide temperature threshold value or pest resistant species can ensure survival. Selection of indigenous plant material that evolved through time can therefore be a wise option to take.
6. Plant trees in strategic locations in farms.
Lost carbon sequestration capacity due to clear-cutting of trees for agriculture can be compensated by planting trees around farms or setting aside forest patches alongside farms. Care must be taken in selecting tree species to grow alongside farms as their fruits or flowers might attract crop predators or pests. This system is called agroforestry. Planting trees has the added benefit of serving as buffer against storms to prevent crop destruction.
Further, trees send their roots considerably deeper than the crops. This allows them to survive a drought and protect both crops and land from too much sun exposure thus minimize water evaporation. Tree roots also pump water into the upper soil layers where crops can tap it, and create spaces for water flow. Leaf litter also generates compost and serves as mulch to keep water from escaping rapidly into the atmosphere.
7. Stagger planting of crops.
Staggered planting of crops can prevent total crop failure due to abrupt climate shifts. Losses will also be minimized.
8. Use energy efficient systems (environmental technology) in running farms.
Use of energy efficient technologies can significantly reduce emission of greenhouse gases from farm machineries. Sunshine Farm in British Columbia has been farming without fossil fuels, fertilizers, or pesticides. It runs essentially on sunlight. They produce their own biodiesel from homegrown sunflower seeds and soybeans. Three-fourths of its feed for horses, cattle, and poultry are derived from the farm. Electricity is provided through a 4.5-kilowatt photovoltaic array.
Adoption of low-carbon environmental technologies such as wind, solar, biofuel, biomass, hydro- and geothermal power can make farms work in an efficient and sustainable manner.
Government policies that encourage the above agricultural practices can help mitigate global climate change impacts. And of course, policies become ineffective if these are not implemented by concerned government, non-government and private institutions.
Global climate change is a serious matter that should be addressed by environment-friendly agricultural practices whether this phenomenon is a normal part of the earth’s global temperature fluctuations or indeed it is anthropogenic or man-induced in nature.
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