Climate change remains one of the most critical challenges and threats to humanity. It comes at a significant economic and environmental cost. For instance, greenhouse gas emissions are its external factors that currently represent the largest market failure facing the world. The negative impacts of climate change differ by sector, and agriculture remains one of the main ones to suffer from increased emissions and temperatures. At the same time, agricultural development also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
Therefore, agriculture is both a victim and a contributor to climate change. Agriculture accounts for a big share of total greenhouse gas emissions mainly due to the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and animal waste. This indicator tends to grow further due to the increased demand for food from the growing world population, especially for dairy and meat products, as well as the further intensification of agricultural activity.
Needless to say, today’s agriculture has to find ways to adapt to climate change to stay efficient while satisfying the food demand. Luckily, modern advanced technologies alongside agricultural weather monitoring are already here to contribute to that cause.
How Technologies Help
Farmers can now take particular steps to adapt to climate change by implementing advanced crop production techniques and technologies on their farms. For example, smart crop rotation can increase farmer profits, maximize land use efficiency, and ensure soil health. Besides, there are new seed varieties that are more resistant to climate-related stresses like drought, diseases, and pests.
Overall, from ground devices to space tech, there are many new tools for aiding farmers to adapt to climate change. For instance, satellite weather data allows growers to prepare for the future by planning next season’s land use.
As for the on-land methods, communities can develop food storage and transportation systems to minimize food waste since this issue is responsible for tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. And with climate change affecting meteorological conditions, crop insurance can protect farmers from devastating economic damage.
Governments can also encourage smart farming practices. Additional funding for research and sustainability can contribute to farmers’ prosperity.
However, as the ultimate hurdle for sustainable agriculture is efficiently producing more food while not only saving resources but reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, let’s see how exactly this can be achieved.
GHG – Efficient Farming
In order to achieve the 2030 baseline sustainable development scenario, greenhouse emissions from agriculture must be reduced, hence emissions from crops production and livestock must decrease.
However, this may cause a conflict with food security goals, so it is necessary to use compatible parameters: carbon sequestration in the soil through the improvement of arable land and pastures, as well as restoration of depleted land, reduction of food loss and waste, and even dietary changes based on World Health Organization recommendations.
Among the ways agriculture can become more GHG-efficient are the following:
- Producing renewable energy sources (biofuels). Most interesting and compatible with food security objectives are second generation biofuels, which are produced from bioenergy crops with limited nutritional and input needs.
- The use of technologies and practices that increase productivity will simultaneously reduce emissions and ensure food security. However, while productivity gains in the crop sector are beneficial to food security, productivity gains in the livestock sector are more contributing to mitigating the agricultural impact on the environment.
- Policies to mitigate the negative impact of agriculture should aim to reduce subsidies to high-waste industries, materials, and energy (fossil fuels), and to improve the efficiency of processing and distribution of food (reduce the associated losses and waste). Support for the conservation of existing carbon sinks needs to be scaled up, for example through the efficient use of regulatory instruments or through financial incentives.
And some more precise ways to achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals are the following:
- Using greenhouse gas–focused genetic selection and breeding
- Enhancing animal health monitoring and diseases prevention
- Improve fertilization practices in crop cultivation
- Expand adoption of controlled-release and stabilized fertilizers
- Optimize the animal feed mix
- Integrate reduced and no-tillage practices
- Expand the use of animal feed additives
To achieve the goals of mitigating the negative impact of agriculture, international coordination of national targets is required. For example, the following target parameters are used – emissions per unit of input, emissions per unit of physical output, emissions per unit value of production, and emissions per unit added value.
Overall, adoption of climate-smart technologies in modern agriculture is a necessity rather than a trend. Without being climate resilient, weather adaptive, and considerate in resources use, farmers will not only harm the environment but also lose their yields and profits. That is why it’s critical to implement new technologies and practices on farms to mitigate the impact of climate on agriculture and vice versa.