Peak oil may soon give us peak food. As we run out of fossil fuels, food will get increasingly expensive not only to produce, but to import and export. Changes to this system can also be good news, however, since globally, agriculture and our industrial food system account for almost one-third of all greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to climate change. Changing how we farm our food can literally change the fate of the world.
“Low GHG agriculture” places top priority on soil restoration and on soil as a carbon sink. It looks to farming methods that are common practice in organic agriculture and, in some cases, practices that were widely used by Canadian farmers sixty or more years ago.Switching to organic, low GHG agricultural practices could not only reduce the 30 percent of GHG emissions that current industrial agriculture creates, but could also sequester through soil restoration another 40 percent of emissions globally. These practices include:
– Banning synthetic fertilizers, which would lead to a 30 percent reduction of[agricultural] green-house gases.
– Planting cover crops such as alfalfa, which is deep rooted and soak up heavy rains.
– Reduced or no tillage on crop-land, as recommended by the UN’s Food and AgricultureOrganization (FAO) in order to increase the soil organic carbon.
– Crop rotation to restore soil, sequester carbon, and also keep weeds in check.
– Restoration of native grasslands across Canada, to remove C02 and nurture topsoil.
– Use of grasslands as pasture for farm animals. Cows that pasture on grass produce 20 percent less methane from burping and farting (called enteric fermentation). Although grass-fed dairy cows produce less milk, this grazing is part of integrated crop and livestock farming, another low GHG agricultural practice that saves energy by not having to bring feed to the animals or remove their wastes, as in factory farming.
– In 2008, Britain’s Institute of Science in Society reported that shifting to organic agriculture could cut world energy use by 16.5 percent and reduce greenhouse gases by 29.5 percent.
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