Tools to fight cli­mate change

The Cli­mate Re­sis­tant Farms cam­paign helps farm­ers to roll with the punches of global warm­ing.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Ecowatch -

AGRI­CUL­TURE may well be one of the in­dus­tries hard­est hit by the ef­fects of global warm­ing. The non-profit Nat­u­ral Re­sources De­fence Coun­cil (NRDC), a lead­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cacy group in the United States, re­ports that warm­ing-re­lated drought and flood­ing is al­ready be­hind tens of bil­lions of dol­lars in Amer­i­can agri­cul­tural losses an­nu­ally.

Given this grow­ing threat, more and more farm­ers are look­ing to in­cor­po­rate tools and tech­niques – let alone switch up what crops they grow – to be pre­pared for the big en­vi­ron­men­tal changes al­ready un­der way.

Ac­cord­ing to Wash­ing­ton State Univer­sity’s Cen­tre for Sus­tain­ing Agri­cul­ture & Nat­u­ral Re­sources (CSANR), some of the most promis­ing warm­ing-friendly farm­ing tech­nolo­gies and prac­tices in­clude con­ser­va­tion tillage (stir­ring up the soil less), pre­ci­sion agri­cul­ture (which em­ploys in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy to mon­i­tor crop de­vel­op­ment, re­fine soil in­puts and op­ti­mise grow­ing con­di­tions), im­proved crop­ping sys­tems (re­fin­ing the se­quence of which crops fol­low each other on a given piece of land), and anaer­o­bic di­ges­tion of or­ganic wastes (via cap­tur­ing meth­ane waste and turn­ing it into use­able en­ergy).

NRDC has been work­ing on sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture for decades, and re­cently launched its Cli­mate Re­sis­tant Farms cam­paign to fo­cus on help­ing farm­ers roll with the punches of global warm­ing through im­ple­men­ta­tion of some of th­ese new tech­niques. The group works di­rectly with farm­ers to de­velop and share some of th­ese best prac­tices re­gard­ing soil health and wa­ter use.

“Cli­mate change and ex­treme weather will likely have detri­men­tal im­pacts on crop pro­duc­tion, but farm­ers can use cover crops and other soil stew­ard­ship prac­tices to make their farms more re­silient to the cli­mate change im­pacts al­ready be­ing felt and those likely to come in the years ahead,” re­ports NRDC. “Such prac­tices can also help to re­duce and cap­ture the green­house gas emis­sions that con­trib­ute to cli­mate change.”

NRDC an­a­lysed the car­bon cap­ture and wa­ter-hold­ing ben­e­fits of soil stew­ard­ship meth­ods to in­crease soil or­ganic mat­ter in the 10 high­est-value-pro­duc­ing agri­cul­tural states in the United States. They found that “us­ing cover crops on just half of the acres de­voted to the na­tion’s two most ubiq­ui­tous crops – corn and soy­beans – in those top 10 states could help cap­ture more than 19 mil­lion met­ric tons of car­bon each year and help soils re­tain an ad­di­tional tril­lion gal­lons of wa­ter.”

But de­spite the ben­e­fits, fewer than 7% of US farms plant cover crops, while only 1% of to­tal cro­p­land na­tion­ally has them. NRDC would like to see the Fed­eral Crop In­sur­ance Pro­gram (FCIP) of­fer dis­counts to farm­ers who im­ple­ment cover crops “just as safe driv­ers can get dis­counts on their car in­sur­ance.”

“While the pro­gramme was cre­ated to help farm­ers man­age risk, pre­mi­ums are set us­ing a for­mula that fails to equip them for the chal­lenges of cli­mate change,” states NRDC. “In­stead, the pro­gramme spurs farm­ers to make risky pro­duc­tion de­ci­sions.”

NRDC points out that be­sides sav­ing tax­payer dol­lars in in­sur­ance pay­outs, ex­pand­ing cli­mate-friendly agri­cul­tural prac­tices helps “en­sure a re­li­able food sup­ply for the na­tion even in the face of more ex­treme weather and cli­mate risks.” – HealthNews

A crop of corn dam­aged by drought. Cli­mate change and ex­treme weather have detri­men­tal im­pacts on crop pro­duc­tion. — Reuters

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