Five ways farmers can reduce their carbon footprint

It is widely acknowledged that agriculture is adversely affected by climate change. Yet, the role agriculture plays in the exacerbation of global warming can’t be denied. It contributes 50% of global methane (CH4) emissions and 60% of global nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions, two of the most potent greenhouse gases.


The energy needs within agriculture are primarily for the following end means:

  • Preparing land
  • Irrigating land
  • Applying nutrients
  • Applying pesticides and herbicides
  • Transport


Incorporating low carbon technologies and techniques into farming practices can reduce emissions into the atmosphere and lower their effects on climate change.


1. Carbon footprint and tillage

This age-old farming technique of using ploughs to prepare the land removes substantial quantities of carbon from the soil. These are then swept away as runoff and, as such, contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and its carbon footprint.


Conservation tillage facilitates the retention of carbon in the soil, in the form of soil organic matter. This enhances soil structure and also makes it more resistant to drought and erosion. Another advantage is the improvement of the soil’s biological fertility, which makes it more resilient.


2. Carbon footprint and irrigation

As farmers are at risk of water shortages and increasing electricity costs, improving irrigation practices has the potential to simultaneously improve the carbon and water footprint of produce as well as reduce operation costs.


Making use of the correct irrigation system will lead to less water wastage and lower operating costs. This can be done by regularly testing soil moisture.


Implementing solar power rather than electricity or diesel to power pumps will also lower their production costs as well as their carbon footprint.


3. Carbon footprint and organic fertiliser

Excessive use of nitrogenous fertilizer has had a significant impact on climate change. Chemical fertilizer use over the past 50 years has produced a huge greenhouse gas burden through its manufacturing, transport and routine escape thereof into the atmosphere from agricultural fields.


Making use of organic fertilizer yields much better results and lower agriculture’s carbon footprint. Results have shown that replacing part of chemical fertilizer with organic manure improves soil quality and crop yields, while decreasing greenhouse emissions.


4. Carbon footprint and tree restoration

Tree restoration is another important mitigation strategy that can benefit farmers while simultaneously enhancing carbon storage. According to the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, the reduction or prevention of deforestation is the mitigation option with the largest and most immediate carbon stock impact in the short term.

5. Carbon footprint and food miles

This is the term that refers to the distance produce is transported from the time of production until it reaches the consumer. The bulk transport of produce with packaging or alternative packaging being performed at its destination will result in very significant reductions in fuel consumption and therefore lower the carbon footprint of the farmer.
For farmers with serious intentions to invest in reducing carbon footprint, solar power systems can greatly improve farm emissions while making use of an unlimited resource: sunlight. Contact Soventix for an assessment and quote for a photovoltaic solar power system.

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