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Down and Dirty

Putting the Eco Back into Agriculture

Monday, September 26, 2011

With the most serious environmental issue currently before us, we as a society need to embrace change to ensure the future survival of agriculture, our planet and society.

Only when we recognise the limited nature of our planet’s resources will we be able to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Agriculture has a huge role to play in assisting with lowering greenhouse gas emissions by adopting farming methods that combine ecology with economics.  Perpetual growth, not valuing natural resources and discounting the future are all keys to why our economy is not working for the environment.  Both economists and environmentalist need to work together to battle climate change effectively.

Re-localising fertiliser and food production is seen as a way of transforming agricultural systems to ensure the future of farmers and a way of been able to produce enough nutritional food to feed the growing world population.  Using local waste, producing local fertiliser to grow local food is a sustainable option that we have that will enhance our local economy and communities.

Industrial agricultural systems depend on fossil fuels and other non renewable resources such as mineral fertilisers for production.  These will be replaced with low input systems that rely on natural capital available to us within our soils and nature.

‘The food production and consumption systems most common today are harmful to the earth, to its ecosystems and to the peoples that inhabit it.’ says Wendell Berry, a farm poet in his book, Eating is an Agricultural Act’

It is now becoming known that the organic carbon levels in Australian soils has dropped from 8% to around 2% in the last 200 years with current farming practices.  Still today we lose 12.5 kg of soil through wind and erosion to grow 1 kg of wheat, equating to 250 grams of soil lost per slice of bread.

In Australia, we have approximately 60 years of top soil remaining if we don’t take full responsibility for increasing soil organic carbon levels from where they are today by using responsible practices such as rotational grazing, retaining stubbles and increasing soil organisms to glue the soil particles together to reduce wind erosion.

For every tonne of carbon lost from soil we add 3.67 tonnes of carbon dioxide gas to the atmosphere.  Organic carbon, particularly humus is central to successful soil health, underpinning the future of agriculture in Australia and illustrating to governments that agricultural soils have an enormous role to play in reducing green house gas emissions worldwide.
The level of public awareness pertaining to our environment has never been higher than the present time.  Everyone is witnessing the negative impact society is having on the Earth with global warming and the flow on effect to human health.  It is only through a heightened awareness of our practices can positive change occur, helping to reverse the damage already done.

We can all play a role in reducing our carbon footprint to ensure the survival of future generations.

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”
- Chief Seattle