Five ways UK farmers are tackling climate changeAugust 19th, 2019
Farmers are on the front line of climate change – vulnerable to changes in temperature and rainfall, as well as increasingly frequent extreme weather events.
Agriculture is currently responsible for about 9% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from methane. The National Farmers’ Union (NFU), which represents 55,000 UK farmers, has set a target of net-zero emissions in British farming by 2040.
1. Sending in robots
Scientists in Wiltshire are part of a growing group of experts around the world developing small battery-powered robots that could drastically cut tractor use. Tractors use diesel, a major source of carbon emissions in farming. The machines rely on artificial intelligence to sow seeds, identify individual weeds, and apply exactly the right amounts of pesticide and fertiliser in the right places, rather than spraying it across a whole field.
2. Using drones to map fields
Drones and tractor-mounted sensors are also being used to help farmers work out the exact patterns of moisture, weeds and pests. The data is fed to precision machinery to target areas that need work – and leave the rest undisturbed.
3. Planting more trees
Friends of the Earth is calling for a doubling of tree cover – to boost carbon storage, help with flooding and prevent soil erosion. Wind protection from trees can also reduce the time livestock need to be kept indoors in the winter, again saving on energy and cutting emissions.
4. Keeping livestock outside for longer
Farmers who keep their animals outdoors for longer in the UK can help to cut emissions thousands of miles away. When animals are taken indoors, they are sometimes fed on soya imported from Latin America. Soya is often cultivated on land that was previously rainforest, so the demand for animal feed in the UK is, critics say, exporting deforestation.
5. Cutting methane emissions
Cows and sheep produce methane in their digestive systems. Methane produces 21 times as much warming in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Whilst carbon dioxide is the biggest concern for many other industries, in farming methane is a major worry. The NFU points to many farmers using methane from manures and slurries to generate electricity and says the British livestock industry is one of the most efficient and sustainable in the world.
Source: BBC Focus on Farming