The future of our planet hangs in the balance, and it's no secret that our current agricultural practices are tipping the scales in the wrong direction. The United Nations Environment Programme sound the alarm about methane emissions from farming. It's clear that we need to take action to mitigate the damages that are caused to the environment. It looks more like we are helpless in the fight, and it is difficult to do away with our favorite foods, meals, activities and income. This implies we're ignoring the potential consequences of the current farming actions. If that be the case, then, we are not ready to make any real difference in the battle against climate declination.
Agriculture is the predominant source of Methane gas, that is continuously hitting our climate in hard ways. The agricultural industry contributes to 32% of global methane emissions. And most of this methane is generated by livestock such as cows, sheep, and goats, through their manure and gastroenteric releases. Paddy rice cultivation is also a great contributor, and it is not in a small amount, as cultivation alone accounts for 8% of human-linked methane emissions. The increasing world's population growth and economic spreads, indicates that our insatiable demand for rice and animal protein will be on the rise. All at the cost of climate change.
To have our food crops meet with methane will generate consequences with time. Then it will occur that agriculture is hurting itself, setting traps for our farmlands. The trend and many more shows — we are not ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work – unfortunately, the planet is counting on us.
Why is Methane a big deal?
Despite the pandemic lockdowns of 2020, atmospheric methane levels continued to rise. Methane is a tipping point when climate change becomes self perpetuating, as it doesn't stay longer than 12 years in the atmosphere. So it has conveniently contributed to a 30% increase in the global temperature since industrialization. This potent greenhouse gas is estimated to have 28 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide over a 100-year time frame. It's also the primary contributor to the formation of ground-level ozone, which is a hazardous air pollutant that causes 1 million premature deaths every year. Therefore, if we are to compare the methane crisis to the hunger crisis, cutting methane should be our emergency food project. Or what's the essence of feeding ourselves for death? Likewise, it's important we know that methane also has our long-term farming practices in its book, with the potential effects that could surface.
How will methane emissions affect farming?
Well, for one, methane has the ability to trap heat and influence climate instability, which can lead to changes in temperature and rainfall patterns that affect crop growth. Plants need just the right amount of water, nutrients, and sunlight to flourish, and any major changes can throw everything off. When there's not enough rain, drought conditions cause plants to wilt and wither away. Drought patterns can be especially tough on plants, as they struggle to get the water they need to survive. This can lead to stunted growth and even death. And it's not just the amount of water that matters - changes in temperature is another issue. The leaves wilt and burn in the heat, or the entire plant getting damaged or killed on prolonged heat.
Methane can mix with other pollutants in the air, to create surface ozone, which can cause chlorosis in plants. Chlorosis is a condition where leaves turn yellow, indicating that the plant is not producing enough chlorophyll to sustain itself. Additionally, methane emissions can deplete nitrogen in the soil, which is an essential nutrient for crops. When methane is released into the atmosphere, it reacts with other gasses to form ground-level ozone. This ozone then reacts with nitrogen in the soil, creating nitric acid that makes the soil more acidic. Soil acidity can be bad news for plant growth, as it can make it harder for plants to absorb the nutrients they need to grow big and strong. This would lead to stunted growth, lower yields, and crops that just aren't as healthy for consumption.
Not only that, methane emissison can tamper with the essential carbon in the soil. Soil carbon is super important for healthy soil, as it helps to improve soil structure, water retention, and nutrient availability. But when methane emissions are high, it will cause soil carbon to decrease, leading to soil degradation and making it harder for plants to thrive.
Changes in rainfall patterns and temperature, also have a direct impact on livestock health. This is by affecting the quality and quantity of forage available for livestock. This, in turn, can impact the nutritional value of their food and ultimately their health. And at high levels methane displaces oxygen in the air, making it difficult for livestock to breathe and ultimately leading to asphyxiation. It must also be noted that the formed ground level ozone can be deposited in water bodies, leading to increased acidity levels that can harm aquatic life and ultimately make it harder for livestock to access clean, safe water.
Absolutely! we've seen, agriculture itself is not exempted, from the looming effects of methane emissions. From soil depletion to crop yield, livestock health and water quality. That's why it's so important for agriculturalists to do everything to reduce methane emissions and protect the environment. Endeavor to take necessary actions as from now, although they can be difficult, but they are investments into what will help protect our soil, water, crops and livestock, and further ensure a healthy future for agriculture. So let's all do our part and work towards a more sustainable and methane-reduced agricultural industry.
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