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 times more potent than 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.