Farmers can’t control the air quality of their farms, yet the air makes quite the difference to the success of the crops. Since air can’t respect property rights it requires governments to act, and that’s what happened back in the 1990s in the USA when environmental regulations to improve air quality were put in place. A study of the impact of those regulations revealed that $5 billion USD in crops can be traced back to improved air quality.
Protecting the environment is good for the planet and for profits!
Focusing on a nine-state region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin) that produces roughly two-thirds of national maize and soybean output, Lobell and study co-author Jennifer Burney, an associate professor of environmental science at the University of California, San Diego, set out to measure the impact on crop yields of ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.
“This has been a tricky problem to untangle because historically our measurements of different types of air pollutants and our measurements of agricultural yields haven’t really overlapped spatially at the necessary resolution,” explained Burney. “With the new high spatial resolution data, we could look at crop yields near both pollution monitors and known pollutant emissions sources. That revealed evidence of different magnitudes of negative impacts caused by different pollutants.”
Growing your own food is fun and possible, even in a tiny space, so everyone should give it a try. Cities are finding ways to encourage more people to grow food locally for a variety of reasons, and they all revolve around dealing with climate change. Cities become more resilient to climate change thanks to the benefits from an increase in urban farming. Those benefits range from local cooling effects from growing plants to the more serious food supply issues felt around the world. There’s no better time than now to try your hand at starting a small food garden.
Apart from private backyard gardens, urban gardening includes larger community gardens, allotment areas and building rooftops that allow people who don’t have backyards to also grow food. Ryerson University in downtown Toronto operates a rooftop farm on its engineering building that has a little under a quarter acre of growing space.
In that little space in the middle of the crowded city, the farm grows about 4,500 kilograms of food every year that supplies the university community and local chefs.
Growing significant amounts of food within the city is not necessarily a new concept. Karen Landman, a professor at the University of Guelph who researches urban gardening, says agriculture used to be a part of North American cities before being gradually zoned out of urban areas after the First World War.
“It’s actually a very old practice,” she said. “There is a lot of land where it could be turned into food production. And if we really had to, we could produce a lot of food. There are other cities in the world where urban agriculture is the primary source of food for many people.”
This week the Canadian government announced the new budget and in it are some climate-friendly moves. Farmers in Canada who practice sustainable farming practices are going to get a little more help and farmers who are using unsustainable practices will be encouraged to change what they do. Industrial farming is horrible for the environment, and arguably bad for people, so anything we can do to avoid it is helpful. The 20th century witnessed the overuse of fertilizers to make up for unsustainable industrial farming.
Reducing the use of nitrogen fertilizer sits at the heart of those recommendations — as it does in the federal budget. When applied to fields in excess, nitrogen fertilizer is broken down by microbes into nitrous oxide, explained Sean Smukler, a professor of soil science at the University of British Columbia.
That greenhouse gas is roughly 300 timesmore potentthan CO2 and accounts for roughly half of Canada’s agricultural emissions. But soil testing and agronomic support — both of which are also funded in the budget — can help farmers substantially reduce their fertilizer use.
Money will also be available to help farmers plant cover crops and use rotational grazing. Both practices promote soil health, carbon sequestration and better long-term productivity. In the short-term, however, implementing them can be too expensive for many farmers already stretched thin by high costs and low revenues.
A new company based in California is hoping to drastically reshape our food supply in the coming years. Plenty uses vertical farming to lower its land use per crop and robots to help grow and harvest the crops. The results so far have been impressive for the young company and they see a lot of growth on the horizon. One of the benefits of vertical farming is that food is grown closer to where it’s consumed so the carbon footprint of transporting it is basically null.
The company has signed a deal to supply 430 stores with fresh produce in the States while also getting hundreds of millions of investment from various sources. The future of this vertical farming company is one to watch!
Plenty’s climate-controlled indoor farm has rows of plants growing vertically, hung from the ceiling. There are sun-mimicking LED lights shining on them, robots that move them around, and artificial intelligence (AI) managing all the variables of water, temperature, and light, and continually learning and optimizing how to grow bigger, faster, better crops. These futuristic features ensure every plant grows perfectly year-round. The conditions are so good that the farm produces 400 times more food per acre than an outdoor flat farm.
The video above tells a story about a person who grew in his garden enough food to eat for a year. Even with a small plot of land one can grow a lot of food. At our house we find that we have food to give away at the end of the summer.
Right now is a perfect time to start planning your garden to get some free food.
I hope that you are inspired to plant some food and support local farmers and growers in your area! We definitely can’t all do what I did, nor do we need to, but in the times we live in we all certainly do something to improve the world around us while increasing our own health and happiness.
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Health and happiness to you all!