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Cultivating a Sustainable Future. Reducing Carbon-Based Energy and Pesticides in Farming

Agriculture is the backbone of our civilisation, providing us with food to eat, fibre to make our clothes, and biofuel. However, modern farming practices often come at a significant environmental price, as heavy reliance on carbon-based energy and pesticides contributes to climate change and biodiversity loss. Population growth leads to an increase in food demand, which, in turn, requires more sustainable farming practices to avoid generating negative effects on the environment. In this article, we will explore strategies to reduce the use of carbon-based energy production and pesticides in farming.

Agriculture is responsible for 12% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions . This sector feeds 8 billion people around the world. According to the UN, the world’s population is expected to increase up to 9.7 billion by 2050, and nearly 10.4 billion by 2080. It means that agricultural sector will have to feed 2-3 billion more people, with massive impact on the environment.

Our research has identified the following farming strategies that can reduce carbon-based energy production and pesticides in farming.

1. Embrace Renewable Energy Sources

One of the key steps toward the reduction of agricultural carbon footprint is the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Solar panels, wind turbines, and biomass energy can power farms, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and long-term operational costs. Governments and agricultural organisations should provide incentives and subsidies to make the adoption of renewable energy technologies more accessible to farmers. In 2021, the Government’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme launched the biggest ever renewable energy support initiative in the UK, providing £285 million a year funding for low-carbon technology and £200 million annually for offshore wind energy.

2. Implement Precision Agriculture

Precision agriculture leverages technology, such as GPS and sensors, to optimise resource use, including energy and pesticides. By precisely identifying where and when input and resources are needed, farmers can reduce waste and minimise the environmental impact of farming. Farmer Charlie solution helps farmers to get accurate information about soil and weather conditions. Data improves farm management, limiting the need for inputs like fertilisers or pesticides, assisting with a sensible use of irrigation, with positive environmental impact and costs saving for farmers.

3. Promote Organic Farming Practices

Organic farming is based on natural methods of pest control and soil enrichment, strictly limiting the need for synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Promoting organic practices not only reduces the environmental footprint; it also produces healthier and more sustainable food.

4. Encourage Crop Rotation and Diversification

Monoculture farming, which involves planting a single crop over large areas, often leads to increased pesticide use. Crop rotation and diversification involve planting different crops in succession or intercropping. These practices naturally reduce pest pressure and the need for chemical pesticides. Besides, they enhance soil health and biodiversity.

5. Develop Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) focuses on the prevention and control of pests through a combination of biological, physical, and chemical interventions. Farmers can use IPM to minimise pesticide use by employing natural predators, trap crops, and targeted treatments only when necessary.

6. Support Small-Scale and Local Agriculture

Small-scale and local farming often employ more sustainable practices due to their closer connection to the land and community. Supporting local agriculture not only means limiting carbon footprint generated by product transport, but also encourages more environmentally friendly farming methods. This strategy is especially important for import-dependent countries like Singapore (90% of food imported), the United Arab Emirates (85% of food imported) and others.

7. Advocate for policy change

Policy changes at local, national, and international levels are essential for driving the shift towards sustainable agriculture. Governments can introduce regulations that limit the use of carbon-based energy and synthetic pesticides while also providing incentives for adopting eco-friendly practices. UK Net Zero strategy is a great initiative aimed at decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy by 2050.

Reducing the use of carbon-based energy and pesticides in farming is a crucial step towards a more sustainable agricultural system that cares for the environment. By embracing renewable energy sources, implementing precision agriculture, promoting organic practices, and supporting research and education, we can transform farming into a more eco-conscious industry.

- Marina Novokhatska

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