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agriculture climate change

Changes to Agriculture Practices Could Slash Emissions Up to 90%

agriculture climate changeBetter farm nutrient management and production practices as well reduced food waste and beef consumption are among 12 strategies that could slash annual carbon emissions from global agriculture by as much as 50 percent to 90 percent by 2030, according to a report released by Climate Focus and California Environmental Associates.

The report, Strategies for Mitigating Climate Change in Agriculture, offers some solutions in response to the grim prognosis delivered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this month. The IPCC, the UN’s top panel on climate change, said in its April report that emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades.

About 70 percent of direct greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture come from livestock, particularly cows, sheep and other grazing livestock, according to the report.  The report’s production-side recommendations focus on reducing emissions from ruminants, animals — including cows, sheep, goats and buffalo — with a four-chamber stomach that emit methane during the digestion process. This process, called enteric fermentation, is responsible for more than 40 percent the agricultural sector’s direct emissions.

Changes to production could cut close to 2 million gigatons of emissions, according to the report. The report makes two recommendations to eliminate livestock-production emissions: improve grazing management in South America’s cattle hub and feed cattle and buffalo healthier diets In India, which would ramp up milk production while reducing the per-gallon climate footprint.

Farmers can drastically cut emissions by changing the way they grow food, the report says. In industrialized countries, particularly China, agriculture uses too much fertilizer, the report says. Most farmers in China could reduce fertilizer use by 30 to 60 percent without harming yields.

Employing the 12 strategies in Brazil, China, the European UnionIndia and the US can provide the largest impact on global emissions, the report says.

Technology can also play a role in improving the efficiency of farms. For example, IBM’s weather forecasting technology will help Georgia farmers improve agricultural efficiency by up to 20 percent, the company says.

IBM’s Deep Thunder precision weather forecasting will help farmers in the Lower Flint River Basin make more informed irrigation scheduling decisions to conserve water, improve crop yields and mitigate the impact of future droughts.

Graphic: Climate Focus and California Environmental Associates

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