How to feed a growing population and lower carbon emissions

2712035049_925b6a699f_zThe Nature Conservancy, a worldwide expert organization that implements sustainable practices, released an article investigating the global solution to feeding the world and lowering carbon emissions from farming practices. In this post I will summarize the exciting key findings that are hopefully going to feed us for a lifetime and preserve the planet in the process.

The population of the earth is predicted to reach 9 billion people by 2050. Just let that sink in. Nine billion people can fill up Lambeau Field over 110,00 times. That is a LOT of people and many are wondering how we are going to be able to feed all of them. Current farming practices have a high carbon emission rate (releasing carbon into the atmosphere) and this is partially caused by deforestation. A large portion of forests, especially in Latin America, have been chopped down to make way for pastures and fields. Deforestation is the 5th highest source of carbon emissions overall.

2979574719_96e701fba0_bdLatin America, being a leader in soybean, corn and a beef export, contributes significantly to this high carbon emission. However, they are investing in successful low-carbon farming practices that are not only more productive in output, but are also maintaining the integrity of the land.

No-till Farming

Through this method, crops and pastures are grown with minimum disruption to the soil from year to year. This technique, which reduces erosion, preserves the health and productivity of soils and keeps carbon locked in the ground. This has become a widely practiced method in Latin America, which now accounts for more than 40 percent of all the world’s agricultural land that is considered “no-till”.

Silvopastoral Systems

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A clear cut patch of forest. It will likely be used as a pasture for grazing animals or for farming.

This methods integrates pastures and crop fields with native trees and other flora. It doesn’t clear cut forests in large strides and preserves the nature around the food production site. Participating ranchers who used this method reported a reduction in the need for chemical inputs, more productive soils, increased amount of animals per land area and a 10 percent average increase in their milk and/or meat production. Monitoring studies have confirmed increased biodiversity and reduced contamination.

The Nature Conservancy estimates that overall, by reducing deforestation and increasing carbon absorption, participants in the project have lowered greenhouse gas by more than 2 million tons! Researchers from Brazilian Universities and Ohio State University in the U.S. estimate that these two farming methods alone could reduce global emissions caused by farming land use by 80 percent by 2050. That’s huge and fantastic news! The success of this low-carbon farming benefits Latin America, it benefits the earth…it’s a win-win no matter what. The future of farming is here and knocking on our door and we should answer it.

Original Nature Conservancy Article

Photos retrieved from Creative Commons License in Flickr

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