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Old MacDonald is Broken. How to fix him.
Modern farming began with the industrialization of farming.000 liters of oil equivalent are used to produce a hectare of corn with a yield of 9. To be classified as organic. plentiful and economical fossil energy supports an era of machinery and agricultural chemicals.000 kg/ha. . Currently. Instead practices such as compost. pesticides and livestock feed additives are restricted. Sustainable farming aims to provide consistent and indefinite crop yields while still preserving the environment by avoiding certain harmful practices such as excessive tillage. the use of synthetic fertilizers. Organic farming: while believed to have started in the 1930¶s the high demand for product didn¶t really begin until the 1990¶s. Biotech farming: involves altering the genes of plants to allow them to defend themselves against disease and pests. farm profitability and the development of successful farming communities. One-third of this energy used is machinery. biotech crops aim to reduce or maybe eliminate the need for tillage but at what price? With the exception of smaller traditional farming. Modern farming: introduced chemical fertilizers and weed and pest control. as well as the use of machinery. all of the above mentioned types of crop farming rely on machinery powered by fossil fuels. Sustainable farming: is not the same as organic farming. Like sustainable farming. The main goals of sustainable farming are environmental stewardship. biological pest control and crop rotation increase productivity.History of Crop Farming Advancements Traditional farming: would use animal and vegetable waste to fertilize crops and would not typically include the use of machines or any chemical or artificial fertilizers. But for how long? About 1. one-third for fertilizers and one-third other.
methane and carbon dioxide are considered the three main greenhouse gases emitted by human activity.3%. cattle) are the major emitters of methane. Nitrous oxide. Table 2 breaks down the various sources of greenhouse gases within the agricultural sector.5%.). 61%) Nitrous oxide emissions account for approximately 60 percent of the total emissions from the agricultural sector. Methane is emitted by the exhaling and belching of the animal.7%. nitrates (NO3. Carbon dioxide from fossil fuel consumption (0. Enteric fermentation (1.) are reduced to nitrogen gas (N2). These two processes inherently create nitrous oxide (N20). The large increase in the use of nitrogen fertilizer for the production of high nitrogen consuming crops such as corn has increased the emissions of nitrous oxide. Rice is grown on flooded fields. carbon dioxide is released. When rice is grown with no oxygen. Dairy cattle and swine account for approximately 85 percent of the methane emissions. During de-nitrification. The agriculture sector accounts for approximately 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions. When manure is stored as a liquid or slurry in lagoons. Nitrogen fertilizer is essential for profitable crop production. 4%) There are many other sources that produce greenhouse gas emissions. 9%) When manure decomposes in the presence of oxygen as would happen in a pasture situation.g. Nitrous oxide is produced naturally in soils through the microbial processes of nitrification and de-nitrification. 18%) Methane is a by-product of the normal digestive processes in animals. Methane has 21 times GWP (global warming potential) over carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide has 310 times GWP.6%. microbes in the animal¶s digestive system ferment feed. Other (0. During nitrification. 7%) The use of fossil fuels in agricultural production (not including the transportation of goods) are primarily for the combustion of gasoline and diesel fuel. Manure management (0. ammonium (NH4) produces nitrates (NO3. During digestion. Because of their unique digestive system.Problems With Emissions Agricultural soil management (5%. ruminant animals (e. the soil organic matter decomposes under anaerobic conditions and produces methane that escapes into the atmosphere. which prevents atmospheric oxygen from entering soil. ponds. . This process is called enteric fermentation. Most notable is the method used for growing rice. tanks or pits methane is produced by the anaerobic (without oxygen) decomposition of manure. Table 1 depicts greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector. Methane emissions will increase as the number of large scale livestock confinement systems increases.
-In the past when parts of the fields were wet. weed killing chemical Today with chemical Today with and genetically modified seeds with pesticide. blade that cuts 100 acres a day. crops would rot in these areas. spends less time and fuel for crops. his memory to keep track parts farmer used where his best crops grew. crop. -Today the only way to keep up with technology is to have a large commercial farm. this sector of fresh fruits and vegetable farming will disappear. Corporations will own the farming business with the farmers being the managers. the farmerspends less time and fuel for crops. therefore burning a advances there¶s no need to plow and till fields as often. the farmer weed killing and genetically modified seeds with pesticide. -Farmers will tell you that if we don¶t take serious steps to limit climate change this will negatively affect food supply as a single night of frost in the month of August could destroy North America¶s corn crop from the growing season. day. The large size makes it economically viable to keep up with new technologies. -30 years ago crop farmers had a combine that had a 10 ft. -In the near future large commercial farms won¶t be owned and operated by single families. -In the past menacing weeds would be manually cut down and tilled back into the ground. -Today a combine has a 30 ft. but comes with a huge capital -30 years ago the cost of living was lower. therefore farms could be smaller with a lower return on investment. investment. -Today a large investment is made in weeping tiles to get rid of the excess ground water. -In the past menacing weeds would be manually cut down and tilled back into the ground. It also helps retain the topsoil on the hilly -In the past small farms were known for having the best crops because theof the fields. . -In the past farmers had to do more field preparation before planting a -Today with technological lot more fuel. This reduces the amount of GHG¶s in the atmosphere. -Today small farms will temporarily survive with the emphasis on locally grown produce as the demand is increasing.Changes in Modern Farming Present Past -In the past 30 years it¶s estimated that crop farms have increased 15 times in size in our region. Unfortunately with urban sprawl taking the best farm land. wide cutting blade capable of cutting 10 acres in a -Today large farms have the best crops due to advances in technology.
helps reduce the time crops cannot be grown. strawberries: 1 indoor acre = 30 outdoor acres) Better control of the internal environment. depending upon the crop (e. Solutions Vertical Farming Vertical farming has been around on a small scale for a time now. Hothouse tomatoes and herbs are grown in a multi layered format in greenhouses.g. Cost beneficial for the building owner/community. Farm a Planet May be our only option if we don¶t change soon Ridiculously difficult to accomplish with today¶s technology Not even close to being cost effective.. More Effective use of space: 1 indoor acre is equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more. .Green Roof Systems Allows for food to be grown on top of existing structures. Positive environmental impact on the structure it is built on.
(see figure 1) Can turn abandoned urban areas into new urban communities. FIGURE 1 . floods. Rain water collectors and treated gray water could water plants. One unit could produce most to all the needed crops. both mounted inside the structure and onto. Thus eliminating the need for the shipping of produce. Low environmental impact. Markets could be located right under the farm. Little to no fossil fuel dependency.Benefits from Vertical Farming No weather-related crop failures due to droughts. Wind turbines. possibly even adding to the grid. Rain water on the roof could power turbines making use of the potential energy caused by gravity. reducing the stress on the water supply. could harvest electricity to power the farm¶s systems. pests Small footprint with a large return.
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