How Farmers Can Reduce Their Environmental Impact

Climate change is altering the agriculture industry in ways we are just beginning to understand. Here's how farmers can reduce their environmental impact.

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farming

Climate change is a real threat to farmers across the globe. The climate is changing for farmers everywhere and agriculture is highly dependent on good and predictable weather conditions, including temperatures, rainfall, wind intensity, and other variables.

Farmers are having to fundamentally change the way agriculture is practised as the environment continues to change. Noticeably altered weather patterns, shorter growing seasons, extreme weather conditions, and many other shifts are causing daunting problems for farmers around the world. 

The good news is that farmers can adapt to these changes and can significantly reduce their own environmental impact in the process. This article will look at 6 sustainable ways that farmers can produce more while lowering their impact on climate change.

 

Sustainable Ways Farmers can Reduce Impact on Environment

Improve Energy Efficiency

climate smart farming

Farms, like all businesses, can require large amounts of energy to perform effectively. Farmers can spend a significant amount of money on energy for lighting, space and/or water heating, and other processing areas.

This ultimately creates large operating costs and a high environmental impact. Farmers can lower this by making a few simple changes to how and where their energy is used.

For example, adding and/or improving insulation and heating systems to both homes and farm buildings by investing in a bunded oil tank. Bunded oil tanks are an ideal option if you are looking to store large quantities of oil without causing any harm to the environment.

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Develop A Management Plan

With farming, it is crucial to be fully aware of your current situation to improve any future outcomes. Farms need to have a sound management plan to increase their output, combat food insecurity, run effectively, lower operation costs, and reduce their climate impact.

A baseline assessment can help farm managers achieve a clear understanding of how the farm operates, and therefore reveal which areas it can run more efficiently while producing more food.

To get a farm running more effectively, farmers need to be lowering greenhouse gas emissions and producing more food with the land already in use. This lowers the need for fresh farmland and clearing of forests. 

 

Improve Water Consumption

In 2020, agriculture accounts for 70% of all global freshwater withdrawals. A supply of freshwater is vital for any farming operation.

Climate change is causing water to become increasingly scarce. There are a number of climate-smart agriculture practises that farmers can adopt to promote their water conservation.

This includes planting a buffer of trees and/or bushes along streams and rivers to prevent erosion and contamination from crop runoff. Another climate-smart water technique is to treat any wastewater that is caused by agricultural processing before it is released back into waterways.

Responsible water practices will not only benefit the farm and its operations, but it will also support the health and wellbeing of the surrounding communities.

 

Focus on Soil 

In climate-smart farming, the soil is treated almost as if it were a crop.

Fertile soil is highly beneficial as it imparts better flavour and a higher nutritional value to food. Healthy soil also holds higher amounts of moisture, which helps to keep plant roots hydrated during dry periods.

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Soil conservation methods, such as contour planting or no-till farming, reduce levels of soil erosion, as these methods help to keep the soil in place during heavy rains or floods, which is an increasing concern due to climate change.

Regular natural compost applications will also enrich a farm’s soil and minimise the need for commercial fertilizers. This all equates to increased climate resilience for farms and improved soil for years down the road.

 

Focus on Trees

climate smart farming

Trees are of utmost importance for farms. They can act as windbreaks to reduce soil erosion, enrich the farm’s soil, filter water which results in improved water quality, provide shade for farmworkers and other shade-loving plants, create habitat for wildlife, store greenhouse gasses, and so much more.

It has been shown that 80% of deforestation is caused by agricultural expansion. The conversion from forest to cropland produces a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions. So, farmers should aim to lessen the need to expand their farms. The focus for farmers should shift to producing higher yields as this will negate the need to clear forests and will keep the greenhouse gases sequestered in the forest.

 

Increase Agricultural Diversity

The more diverse an agricultural system, the greater is its ability to adapt to climate change.

Farmers should shift from focusing the farm on one kind of production (crops, livestock, or forestry, etc) and instead think about using integrated systems that combine crops, livestock, and forestry. Integrated systems can produce food, energy, fibre and wood in the same area, at the same time or in rotation. This integrated way of farming provides many benefits.

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For instance, integrated systems can improve a farm’s resilience by refining the local micro-climate by reducing its temperature and increasing precipitation and water availability.

Increased agricultural diversity can also reduce the impact of extreme weather events on crops, livestock, and other products. And it reduces soil erosion, improves productivity, and provides additional socioeconomic benefits by increasing the number of products a farmer can produce.

With all these benefits, farmers should have no trouble getting on board with climate conscious farming.   

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Imogen Clarke is a freelance writer who is passionate about the environment and specializes in topics such as Eco-friendly living. Her diet typically consists of coffee and snacks. When she doesn't have her head in a book, she can usually be found with her dog, Charlie.

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