With the agricultural industry coming under attack and taking the blame for Climate Change, I decided to undertake a little of my own research to understand the depths to which the industry contributes.
Professor Mithloehner discussed this topic during one of his recent conferences in Kentucky stating that the biggest issue “was the lack of understanding about the methane livestock emit, and how it acts in the environment”.
Methane is a heat trapping gas that has a lifespan of approximately 10 years:
• 27% of the total methane is being produced by livestock farming
• The largest methane producing industry is fossil fuel production, distribution and use, which produces 33% of the total
• Other producers include Landfills & Waste (16%)
• Biomass Burning (11%)
• Rice Agriculture (9%)
• Biofuels (4%)
However, this is not considered to be the biggest problem facing global warming currently, the problem sits with the amount of CO² emitted, this is due to the 1,000-year lifespan.
Once the methane has reached the end of its 10-year lifespan it is broken down into CO² and enters the Carbon Cycle. During this cycle the gas is absorbed through photosynthesis by plants where it is converted into cellulose and then eaten by the livestock. This demonstrates the cycle of the methane that is produced within the agricultural sector, the cycle is currently very efficient with almost all the methane produced by all industries being absorbed by plants and therefore returning on the Carbon Cycle.
With livestock numbers reducing, this means that the methane being produced by the agricultural sector is also reducing.
In order to keep up with the ever-changing market sector and the demand placed on farmers by consumers it is important to be aware of the sources of emissions from your farming practices, this way you will be able to undertake mitigation measures to prevent unnecessary emissions. It is also essential to offer robust and well researched responses when defending agriculture and not to rely on simply soundbites about air travel without backing these up with further information.
Actions to Reduce GHG Emissions include:
• Recycling Farm Waste and not burning plastics, these can be simple tasks once a system is put in place.
• Improving nitrogen fertiliser application. This reduces GHG emissions and saves money. Applying nitrogen to soil that is saturated will not have the desired effect and therefore is a waste of both fertiliser and money. Regular soil sampling will allow you to analyse the nutrients that the soil requires.
• Low Emissions Slurry Spreading (LESS) will reduce nutrient and GHG losses. Precision/shallow application of slurry to the land will result in less nitrogen lost in the atmosphere and more absorbed and utilised by the soil and plants.
As an industry we have not been good at effectively expressing the benefits of UK agriculture to the general public. A strong agricultural industry is reliant on the general public really valuing what UK agriculture offers. Although it may feel that the industry is being attacked unduly, there is an opportunity to review what we can do at business and at a wider industry level, to adapt to the changing conditions whether that be climate change, Brexit etc.
Please contact your Local FCG office or Chloe at firstname.lastname@example.org , to discuss potential ways to streamline and improve your business efficiencies.