Agriculture generates 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than all the world’s planes, trains and automobiles combined. With this in mind, Bill Meredith, head of agriculture at the University of Lincoln, describes how the industry is responding to environmental challenges.
How can mankind feed a rapidly growing population without destroying the planet? It is a question that tends to polarise the scientific community, with one camp favouring the intensification of agriculture and the other promoting low input systems such as organic farming.
There is a broad consensus, however, that we require a sustainable system that ensures the efficient use of key resources including fuel, fertiliser and water. Improvements in efficiency of resource use will not only conserve dwindling supplies, but will also reduce pollution and the degradation of rivers and lakes.
It’s hardly surprising that irrigation accounts for the biggest single use of water. The critical role of water in sustaining global food supplies should not be under estimated. Climate change is predicted not only to give rise to greater desertification globally, but also to cause an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, including the occurrence of drought conditions in more temperate European climes.
In the UK, the Government’s Foresight report calls for “climate-smart” agriculture, which uses less fossil fuels and employs techniques that sequester carbon dioxide, such as growing plants with larger roots and creating a better balance between agriculture and forestry.
Farmers in Eastern England are coping with drought conditions for the second year running. Cropping plans and agronomic practices are being adapted to minimise moisture stress during the growing season.
More drought tolerant crops such as barley are being considered as alternatives to wheat. And where wheat must be grown, faster maturing varieties and those with longer straws, which are less susceptible to stress, are favoured.
Non-inversion cultivation systems are preferable to conventional ploughing systems in terms of retaining soil moisture, and earlier sowing tends to result in better rooted, more resilient crops. The use of organic manure and compost also improves moisture retention and soil structure.
Careful timing of fertilisers and fungicides will also improve drought tolerance. Some of the newer fungicides—the SDHIs and strobilurins—have been found to have physiological effects on crops; research by ADAS shows that treated crops use in the order of 25% less water to produce each tonne of grain.
Over recent decades, the amount of funding that has gone into agricultural research in the UK has declined, but this trend is now being reversed. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is directing £100m into a food security programme that includes funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and other government departments.
The University of Lincoln is currently researching the use of silicon based products, specifically for improving the drought tolerance of wheat crops. Previous studies have suggested that silicon can alleviate drought stress damage and improve shoot growth. The Lincoln project will show whether improved growth translates into higher yields in drought conditions.
Plant breeding has always played an important role in improving agricultural productivity and there is currently a lot of interest in improving drought tolerance. The Food and Environment Research Agency have recently announced that it will be leading on ABSTRESS, a £2.5m European project designed to improve the way in which pea varieties are bred to resist moisture stress and disease.
The use of genetic modification (GM) to rapidly introduce desirable agronomic traits remains a contentious issue, particularly within Europe. UK scientists at Rothamsted Research, funded by the BBRSC, are currently trialling a GM wheat crop with a novel form of resistance to aphids. The wheat has been modified to produce a non-toxic odour which repels aphids, but attracts their native predators.
More efficient use of water through improved irrigation systems—reducing evaporation and run-off losses—is another priority.
Cranfield University is leading a DEFRA-funded benchmarking initiative to enable farmers to compare their individual field irrigation performance against others to improve efficiency. Improvements could include changing irrigation equipment, installing meters at key control points and better timing of water application.
UK farmers have been quick to embrace the latest technology to improve their productivity. The adoption of precision agriculture systems using GPS technology is a good example of how the industry is responding to the challenge of more efficient resource use by targeting inputs more accurately.
Whether advances in technology and the ‘sustainable intensification’ of agriculture will be sufficient to meet the looming food security crisis remains uncertain, but investing in climate-smart farming that uses resources more efficiently must be a step in the right direction.
How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018
Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.
Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:
1. Energy – produce it, save it
If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.
It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.
While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.
Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!
2. Don’t be just another tourist
Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.
3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly
We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.
To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.
It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.
4. Know thy recycling
People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.
People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.
5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool
Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.
All in all
The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.
Top 5 Changes You can Make in Your Life to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
In a world, where war rages and global warming threatens our very existence, the inhabitants of earth need to be extra vigilant in their efforts to go green. This includes reducing your carbon footprint on the earth and leading a more sustainable life.
Many homeowners feel perplexed by all of the options available to reduce their carbon footprint. They may even feel (falsely) that making their household more green will fail to make that much of a difference in the fight to save our planet.
Even a single home going green has a massive impact on the environment. We can win this battle on home at a time. If you’re interested in accepting the challenge of making your household a green home, read on below for a few of the top changes you can make in your life to reduce your carbon footprint. We all stand to benefit from making the earth safer for future generations – and your wallet won’t complain when you start to see the savings in annual energy costs.
Switch From Dirty Energy to Clean Solar
The ION Solar reviews tell it all–solar is the best way to go. Whether your goal is to slash your energy bills, or to reduce your carbon footprint, the sun is a fantastic source of renewable energy.
It’s important to get past the hype from solar installers. Instead, listen to the plethora of impartial customer reviews that mention everything from a $20 energy bill, to the incredible feeling of knowing that you are doing your part by going green and minimizing harmful emissions in to our atmosphere.
The average investment is $15,000 to $30,000 for installation and purchase of solar panels. Optional battery power packs can help provide consistent power during both night and day. And many government agencies provide federal, state or local grants to help offset upfront investments in clean energy.
Depending on which installed you choose, your household may qualify for low-interest or zero interest loans to cover the up-front cost of your installation. And the loan payments are usually less than your current monthly power bill.
It really is a win-win, as home buyers are looking for homes that feature this technology – meaning solar power installation improves the resale value of your property.
And there are a number of additional home modifications that can help improve the energy efficiency of your home. A programmable thermostat can better manage energy consumption from home cooling and heating systems while you’re away from home. And weather stripping your doors can help keep cool air in during the summer, and warm air in during the winter.
Of course, energy conservation starts at home. And this includes setting a powerful example for your kids. Teach your children how to close windows, strategically keep doors open or closed based on airflow, and encourage them to leave the thermostat alone – opting for adding or removing layers of clothing instead.
Unplug Appliances and Shut Off Electronics
Unplugging your appliances when they aren’t in use, such as the toaster and the coffee maker, has more of an impact than you might think. Set your TVs and stereos on sleep timers, instead of letting them run around the clock. The cumulative impact of wasteful electronic device usage is horrible for our environment – putting unnecessary strain on our electrical grid.
One of the simplest and easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is by recycling. You are already throwing this stuff away anyway, right? It doesn’t take much more effort to just put recyclables in a separate container to be recycled, now does it?
Oh, and did I mention that you can earn money for recycling? Yes! Many cities and towns have recycling centers that will purchase your clean plastic and glass bottles for reuse.
Minimize Your Water Usage
Water is one of the easiest things to forget about when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint. Preserve water by turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth. Shorten your shower by a few minutes and turn down the heat on that water heater. You’ll be surprised at how much lower your water bill and your energy bill will be.
Saving money and reducing your carbon footprint? What isn’t to love?
These are just a few of the top ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint and start living a greener lifestyle. And we aren’t factoring in all of the advantages that we’ll reap from public investments in a smarter energy grid.
From decreasing your water usage, to switching to solar for your home’s energy needs, you will feel good at the end of the day knowing you are doing your part to save the future of this planet for generations to come!
Energy2 weeks ago
How Much Energy Does Bitcoin Use, Really?
Environment4 weeks ago
Biggest Tip to Eco-Friendly Car Ownership (Which May Surprise You)
Energy4 weeks ago
Top 5 Changes You can Make in Your Life to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Energy3 weeks ago
4 Energy Efficient Home Upgrades that You Can Install Yourself