Tag Archives: climate change

Climate report shows need of efficient biogas production

As climate scientists and world leaders met in Poland in December, in the US the role that renewable energy – and biogas in particular – can play in mitigating the effects of climate change were highlighted by a report to Congress.

The fourth National Climate Assessment report¹ (NCA4) was published on 30 November 2018 under the 1990 Global Change Act. Among its recommendations was the ‘increased deployment of renewable energy.’

The good news is that adaptation planning and implementation activities are already occurring across the country – these mitigation and adaptation activities often present opportunities for additional immediate and localised benefits, such as improving local air quality and investments in infrastructure.

One renewable energy technology which provides a number of benefits in addition to low-carbon energy generation is the production of biogas through anaerobic digestion (AD). As well as producing low-carbon energy (the biogas produced can be used to generate heat and/or electricity, or can be converted into biomethane fuel), anaerobic digestion provides a method for the efficient treatment and disposal of certain biological wastes, prevents methane emissions from the uncontrolled decomposition of such waste, and provides a valuable product (known as digestate) which can improve soil health and, with long term use, increase the ability of soils to sequester carbon. Using digestate to fertilise soils also reduces the need for synthetic nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertilisers.

As a member of the American Biogas Council (ABC), HRS Heat Exchangers agrees with the Council’s response² to the NCA4 report that, ‘Building more biogas systems to recycle our organic waste into renewable energy and soil products is a critical near term action we can take to make a significant beneficial impact.’ However, from working with the developers and operators of AD plants around the world, HRS knows that not every AD facility is equal. While all provide the above benefits, the overall efficiency of the plant determines how much energy is used or wasted in processes such as pre-treating feedstock or drying digestate.

Matt Hale, International Sales and Marketing Director at HRS Heat Exchangers, comments:

The American Biogas Council is right to say that, ‘one of the most obvious actions we must take to protect our climate is recycling organics in the waste stream, and to do that, we need to policies that ensure the construction of more biogas systems.’ Making biogas plants as efficient as possible will not only increase the environmental benefits they provide, but will also improve economic returns for developers and operators, helping to increase the deployment of this vital technology. HRS provides a number of systems, from feedstock pre-treatment right through to digestate management, that not only increase plant efficiency and product value, but which often do so using existing heat so as to further improve the overall environmental benefits.

¹ https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/

² http://archive.americanbiogascouncil.org/pdf/ABC%20Press%20Release-Climate%20Assessment.pdf The post Climate report shows need of efficient biogas production appeared first on HRS Heat Exchangers.

Report warns fruit and veg at risk of climate change

A new report warns that British-grown fresh produce is at risk from climate change due to factors such as a lack of water, unpredictable weather events and warmer average temperatures.

Published last month by The Climate Coalition: Recipe for disaster: climate change threatens British-grown fruit and veg,cites many of the supply issues caused by last year’s difficult growing conditions and warns that they could become the new normal.

According to the authors, who have drawn on research by the Priestley International Centre for Climate, apple growers lost around 25% of their harvest in 2017 due to unexpectedly late frosts. Carrot (down a reported 25-30%) and onion yields (reportedly down 40% on a normal year) were hampered in 2018 by warmer than average temperatures. Potato yields were down on average 20% in England and Wales in 2018 compared to the previous season, making it the 4th smallest harvest since 1960.

Other crops which the report’s authors say could suffer include grapes, cauliflower, lettuce and onions. Over the last decade more than half of UK farmers say their business has been affected by a severe climatic event.

Photo Caption: More than half the farmers in the UK say they have experienced severe weather events.

Photo Credit: NOAA Photo Library The post Report warns fruit and veg at risk of climate change appeared first on Hort News on 14 March 2019.

Climate change could benefit UK apple production

A new series of experiments at Brogdale, funded by the National Fruit Collections Trust, aims to test the theory that future changes to the UK’s climate could be beneficial for apple production.

Professor Paul Hadley of the University of Reading, and an NFCT Trustee, said, “Climate change is affecting top fruit already. Our data shows that apple varieties are now flowering on average 17 days earlier each spring than 60 years ago. There are pros and cons to changes to apple flowering and harvest times, but these are likely to change the face of apple growing and lead to different varieties of UK fruit on supermarket shelves in the UK. This research will enable both professional growers and gardeners to learn how to adapt production techniques to cope with possible changes in the climate, and also identify varieties which are suitable for the UK’s future climate.”

The experiments will be carried out in a new 0.6 hectare facility under polythene covers, with trees of more than 15 varieties of apple. The varying conditions produce diverse flowering and harvest times, as well as growth habits and winter chill requirement. Earlier blossom and harvest times may affect fruit quality and storage potential, but how significant these changes will be is not yet known.

Tim Biddlecombe, of the Fruit Advisory Service Team and Secretary to the National Fruit Collections Trust, added, “Over the last 20 years, growers have been adapting to earlier seasons, but it is important to understand the implications if this trend continues. Obvious changes like earlier flowering could increase the risk of damage from frost during blossom, while earlier harvest would provide English apples to consumers earlier in the year and so extend the marketing period for UK apples.”

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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.