Tag Archives: climate change

Soil holds the secret to mitigating climate change

New research from Michigan State University in the United States suggests that crop yields and the global food supply chain can be preserved, despite the prospects of climate change, by harnessing soil.

The researchers found that carbon dioxide compensated for yield losses caused by climate change, as it acted as a natural fertiliser to help crops grow. However, when soil organic carbon losses were included in the analysis, the increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was not sufficient to prevent yield losses.

“Through agronomic management, which is ‘doing the right thing at the right time for your crops,’ soil quality and health can be improved,” said lead researcher MSU Foundation Professor Bruno Basso. “Up until now, research hasn’t accounted for what soil gives back to the cycle of climate change, and it is arguably the most critical resource to adapt to mitigate its effects. Ultimately, soil is the ‘home’ of the plants. If we aren’t caring for the soil, plants and crops are unsheltered and left to deal with climate change on their own.”

He also explained that farmers can practice better agronomic management to protect soil against the effects of climate change. This should include the use of cover crops, conservation tillage, adding organic carbon to soil or by increasing yields through advanced genetics and agronomy.

Photo Caption: Research says that looking after soils can mitigate the negative effects of climate change on crop growth.

Photo Credit: Pixnio

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Scientists propose indoor farming to counter climate change

Research supported by Agri-Tech Cornwall at the University of Plymouth has proposed using ‘factory conditions’ such as those achieved with indoor farming techniques as a way to protect crops from the negative impacts of climate change.

A new project, known as Plant Factory Cornwall, aims to use artificial lighting powered by solar energy to create the best possible conditions for fruit and vegetable production. The scientists believe it will reduce the stresses that plants face in normal conditions, while improving global food security and reducing food miles.

Professor of Plant Physiology Mick Fuller, an expert in the use of technology to improve crop production, said, “The positive health benefits of fruit and vegetables are well known, as is the need to double food production in order to meet the demands of a growing population. But how do you do that when climate change, as we have seen this summer, means we cannot rely on having the right conditions for crops to thrive every year? That is where facilities like the Plant Factory come in.”

The facility will be located on the University campus, within a multi-tier production unit constructed in partnership with Penzance-based company SolaGrow. According to the University, the solar-powered LED lights can be individually programmed to give a precise light recipe for each species.

Professor Fuller added, “In recent years many farmers have used redundant buildings or land to diversify away from farming. But this could offer them an affordable way to diversify back into crop production. There really is no limit to the size or scale of these facilities.”

Photo Caption: The project will monitor each plant’s responses to the lighting conditions.

Photo Credit: University of Plymouth

The post Scientists propose indoor farming to counter climate change appeared first on Hort News on 30 August 2018.

Climate change could threaten veg production

A new study has warned that the effects of climate change could significantly limit the global production of vegetable crops and legumes, with an impact on the health of people’s diets.

Researchers led by a team at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) warned that without mitigation of the negative impacts on agricultural yields, environmental changes predicted to occur by mid- to end-century in water availability and ozone concentrations would reduce average yields of vegetables and legumes by 35 per cent and 9 per cent respectively. In hot regions like Southern Europe and large parts of Africa and South Asia, increased air temperatures would reduce average vegetable yields by an estimated 31 per cent.

Professor Alan Dangour, senior author at LSHTM, said, “We have brought together all the available evidence on the impact of environmental change on yields and quality of vegetables and legumes for the first time. Our analysis suggests that if we take a ‘business as usual’ approach, environmental changes will substantially reduce the global availability of these important foods. Urgent action needs to be taken, including working to support the agriculture sector to increase its resilience to environmental changes and this must be a priority for governments across the world.”

Dr Howie Frumkin of the Wellcome Trust, which funded the study, added, “This excellent review highlights that some of the most important foods, and some of the world’s most vulnerable people, are at highest risk. This research is a wake-up call, underlining the urgency of tackling climate change and of improving agricultural practices.”

Photo Credit: Pixart Bay

The post Climate change could threaten veg production appeared first on Hort News on 14 June 2018.

Is organic production better for the climate?

A new study by The National Soil Project at Northeastern University in the United States, in collaboration with the Organic Center, concludes that organic agricultural practices build healthy soils and can be part of the solution in the fight on global warming.

One of the key findings is that on average, organic farms have 44% higher levels of humic acid (the component of soil that sequesters carbon over the long term) than soils which are not managed organically.

The Organic Center contacted organic farmers who acted as “citizen scientists” to collect organic soil samples from throughout the country to compare with the conventional soil samples already in the National Soil Project’s data set. Altogether, the study measured 659 organic soil samples from 39 states and 728 conventional soil samples from all 48 contiguous states. It found that that all the components of humic substances were higher in organic than in conventional soils.

“This study is truly groundbreaking,” said Dr Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center. “We don’t just look at total soil organic carbon, but also the components of soil that have stable pools of carbon – humic substances, which gives us a much more accurate and precise view of the stable, long-term storage of carbon in the soils.”

Photo Caption: Dr Jessica Shade

Photo Credit: Audubon

The post Is organic production better for the climate? appeared first on Hort News on 28 Sept 2017.

Changing Climate Changes Soils

In a new study, Australian researchers have used digital techniques to predict how soil organic carbon may be altered by climate change.

“Soil organic carbon is a major determinant of soil health,” says Jonathan Gray, senior scientist at New South Wales Office of Environment & Heritage, who was the lead author of the study. “It influences many chemical, physical, and biological properties of the soil, such as fertility and water holding capacity.”

The researchers used 12 climate change models to predict how soil organic carbon levels vary with climate change. The models used in the study reflected a full range of projected global climate outcomes. Results were varied. “A majority of models showed a decline in soil organic carbon with climate change,” states Gray. “But a few of the models actually predicted an increase.”

The researchers also discovered that the extent to which soil organic carbon changes varied across soil types, current climate, and land use regimes. For example, the projected average decline of soil organic carbon was less than one ton per hectare for sandy, low-fertility soils in dry conditions under cropping regimes. It was 15 times as much for clay-rich, fertile soils in wet conditions under native vegetation regimes.

“This knowledge can help us to better understand and predict where the greatest potential losses or gains in soil carbon may occur,” says Gray. “It would allow us to better prepare for and adapt to altered soil conditions,” he says. “That would ultimately improve how we manage both agricultural and native ecosystems.”

Photo Caption: Jonathan Gray collecting soil carbon data in the field, Hawkesbury Region, NSW (D. King, OEH)

Photo Credit: D. King, Office of Environment and Heritage.

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Agricultural emissions could be more harmful than fossil fuel

According to new research from Colorado State University (CSU), nitrogen cycle disturbance from emissions of agriculture-related ammonia now exceeds the effects of fossil fuel combustion emissions, in the US at least.

According to the team, ‘No matter what the source, excess nitrogen in the atmosphere, as it cycles through terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in both wet and dry processes, has debilitating environmental impacts. These include increased soil acidification, decreased biodiversity, and changes to the chemistry of lakes and streams.’

Most attention in recent years has focused on the fossil fuels and major strides have been made to stem these emissions. In contrast, ammonia from agricultural processes has received relatively little attention in the US, and ammonia is not a regulated pollutant. The CSU researchers found that ammonium has now surpassed nitrates as the dominant source of nitrogen deposition and subsequent disruption to the nitrogen cycle in the country.

“We are used to thinking of nitrates as driving a lot of the nitrogen deposition, and that was true in the 1980s,” said Jeffrey Collett, who led the team. “But largely because we’ve reduced nitrates so much while ammonium deposition has increased, the balance is now shifted, and ammonium is now a bigger contributor to nitrogen deposition.”

Photo Credit: © chas53 / Fotolia

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Record breaking winter for England and Wales

The Met Office has confirmed that 2015/16 was provisionally the warmest winter for England and Wales since the record series began in 1910, while it was the third-warmest for the UK as a whole.

It has also been the wettest in the record series for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and the second-wettest for the UK as a whole just behind the winter of 2013/2014.

In a statement, the forecaster said, “Following the extreme rainfall in December and early January across mainly northern and western parts of the UK, this has been a wet winter. The figures show a rainfall total for the UK of over 529 mm, well above the long term winter average of 330.4mm. This makes Winter 2015/16 the second wettest on record behind 2013/14 (545mm). These are the only two years with rainfall totals exceeding 500mm, the next wettest is 1995 (485mm).”

The only places where above average rainfall wasn’t recorded were parts of East Anglia and eastern England, but there were large contrasts across the country. The wettest areas were in the west, from Wales to eastern Scotland where many areas saw double the amount of rainfall normally recorded in winter.

Photo Caption: Winter rainfall and mean temperature for Winter 2015/16

Photo Credit: Met Office

The post Record breaking winter for England and Wales appeared first on Hort News on 3 March 2016.

UK food supply at risk from climate change

Retailer Asda has attempted to map the risks of climate change and, according to chief executive Andy Clarke it is one of the biggest issues facing the industry.

The BBC reports that the supermarket giant estimates that as much as 95 per cent of its fresh produce supplies could be affected by rising global temperatures, principally by reduced water availability. Both UK and imported produce could be affected with a resulting increase in prices.

“Climate change is a big industry and a big global issue, and we’ve been working hard to understand them so we can try to get ahead,” Mr Clarke told the BBC. “”We’ve seen, over the course of the last decade, rising temperatures across the world.” The company is working with growers in Spain and the UK to mitigate some of the effects of climate change.

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Latest Agricultural GHG statistics show fall in total emissions

The latest edition of Agricultural Statistics and Climate Change, published by Defra and National Statistics, shows that emissions of major greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the sector have fallen.

Total estimated GHG emissions fell 19% from 1990 to 2013, with the biggest falls in carbon dioxide (31%), followed by nitrous oxide and methane which dropped 17% each. Methane accounted for the largest proportion of gases at 27 million tonnes CO2e in 2013. Total productivity rose over the same period according to the report.

However, the output of vegetables and other horticultural products fell between 1990 and 2014, although at 86.7% of the 1990 index the 2014 figure was still higher than 2012 which was the lowest period. According to the statistics the sector accounts for 10% of total GHG emissions from agriculture. ‘Improved nitrogen use efficiency in cropping systems can be achieved through improved crop nutrient management,” comment the authors.

Photo Credit: National Statistics/Defra

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Climate Change Committee highlights risk to farmland

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has published its latest progress report, which includes an assessment of the effects of climate change in UK farmland.

In particular the report highlighted the risk of erosion to some of the UK’s most productive, but fragile soils, such as the Fens in East Anglia. In particular the authors call on the Government to: ‘Preserve and enhance the country’s natural capital, in order to sustain agriculture productivity in a changing climate, maximise carbon sequestration, and safeguard the economic and amenity benefits the natural environment provides.’ This should include ‘firm measures to preserve the fertility and organic content of important agricultural soils, to achieve the stated goal for all soils to be sustainably managed by 2030.’

Commenting on the report, NFU vice-president Guy Smith said, “This report, highlighting how productive land is at risk, demonstrates the need to retain funding in voluntary initiatives such as Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) to incentivise and support farmers who want to be leaders in protecting soils.”

Trevor Mansfield, head of policy at the Soil Association added, “For the first time, this report highlights the critical red list status of British soils, threatening our climate and future food production. The Soil Association supports the Committee’s call on government to implement measures to protect organic matter in agricultural soils.” He also echoed warnings in the report about the effect that increased maize production could have on soil erosion during adverse weather.

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