Agriculture has an enormous impact on the environment. And with the world’s population on the rise, we need to produce more food than ever before. By 2050, we’ll need about 50 percent more food than we currently produce.
Agriculture is changing in ways that will reduce the environmental impact of producing more food while helping create a greener future. Specifically, it’s changing the way it provides food and works to change the way we live and interact with our environment.
Farms require energy. Many people in the agriculture industry are switching to renewable energy which lessens their impact on the environment while creating jobs. Wind energy could create 80,000 new jobs and $1.2 billion in revenue for farmers and rural landowners by 2020. And that’s only one renewable energy source. Agriculture is also investing in solar, biomass and more.
Farms also produce renewable energy by growing corn for making ethanol. Native grasses and fast-growing trees are now rising in popularity for use as a fuel because they’re cheap and easy to grow.
Farmers are innovating lots of new ways to use less water. Drip irrigation, a method that supplies water closer to a plant’s roots, reduces evaporation and can use up to 80 percent less water than traditional irrigation.
Farms also reduce water use by carefully planning the timing of watering. Monitoring the weather and soil moisture helps protect against overwatering. Watering at times when there’s less sunlight reduces water lost due to evaporation.
Some farms also create their own ponds for capturing rainwater that they then use on their crops. These ponds can also become important habitats for wildlife.
More and more farmers are practicing conservation agriculture, a set of soil management methods that preserve the soil’s natural structure, composition, and biodiversity.
To help protect soil, farmers maintain soil covers either by planting a cover crop or using excess from a previous crop. They also till the soil as little as possible to avoid disturbing its structure and composition. Rotating crops helps to protect soil as well.
Protecting soil helps to reduce erosion, keeps the soil healthy and reduces the need for water.
Using recycled products
Farmers are repurposing, recycling and reusing a wide variety of products, which reduces their environmental impact and keeps trash out of landfills. Many farmers recycle and reuse items such as bale wrap, scrap metal and bulk bags used for feeds, grains and fertilizers instead of throwing them away.
“Reconditioned bulk bags are made from woven polypropylene, which is a highly sought after recyclable material,” says Brett Roeder, Vice President and Sales & Solution Specialist at Bulk Bag Reclamation, a company that reconditions, sells and buys bulk bags. “Because of this, recycling outlets are easier to find compared to boxes made from high-density polyethylene.”
Many agricultural workers also make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of goods they use on their properties in order to reduce their impact.
The way we eat
Farmers are promoting more environmentally friendly food habits through changing the way we eat and reducing our impact on the environment. Eating local and seasonal food reduces emissions associated with transportation, as well as the resources needed to grow and preserve the goods. When farmers sell local and seasonal produce at farmer’s market and similar events, they are encouraging the purchase and consumption of more eco-conscious goods.
Agriculture has the potential to either have a large negative impact on the environment or to lead the charge in treating it better. Many farmers are taking measures to reduce their environmental impact and create a greener future for everyone to enjoy.