Farmers have been asking: what can I do to reduce emissions on my farm? Well, there are three gases we need to reduce: carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane. But on-farm, it’s particularly about the last two. Lots of small steps can add up to make a big difference.
The good news is that combined greenhouse gas emissions from New Zealand agriculture are no longer going up, thanks to farmers’ efforts to become more and more productive and efficient over the years. As a result, the greenhouse gases emitted per unit of product are going down.
Without all this great work, emissions from agriculture in New Zealand would be about 30 percent higher than now, to produce the same amount of food.
[But there’s a lot more of us now.]
[And a lot fewer of us!]
But we need to reduce emissions, not just keep them steady. There’s no magical formula here, but there are several things that can be done on farms right now – and some will have other benefits too.
You know your business better than anyone, so you’re in the best place to work out which of these are achievable.
Here’s what some farmers are doing already, that you might want to consider for your farm.
First, find out what your farm’s greenhouse gas emissions are and include them in your planning. Depending on the farm, it might be that some of those options can save you time, and money.
In a nutshell, methane emissions are related to the total amount of dry matter eaten. Nitrous oxide emissions depend on the total amount of nitrogen going through your farm via feed and fertiliser. So, what steps can be taken to change these quantities, while still running a profitable business?
Look carefully at the feeds used. Can you use feeds with lower nitrogen or higher energy content to get animals to market quicker? Would a less-intensive system work for you? It might be reducing fertiliser inputs and stocking rates, changing the ratio of your stock type, or once-a-day milking.
You could try using precision technologies for improving the amount and timing of your fertiliser application.
Look at the balance between individual animal performance and stocking rate. Could you run slightly fewer animals and focus more on getting the most out of each animal to keep production up?
You could also consider the balance of your land use to reduce livestock emissions. Many farmers are now integrating trees onto their less productive land, and there is Government support to help do this.
For some farms, diversifying some of the land use to cropping or horticulture could reduce overall emissions and dependence on one income stream.
Rest assured, you’re not alone in your efforts. Scientists are working hard on new solutions, with some very promising results. Some of them are being trialled already. In the future, it’s likely we’ll be able to breed low-methane animals or use inhibitors and vaccinations to reduce the amount of methane that animals belch out.
We’re all working towards the same goal, and any small step is a step in the right direction.
Remember to check out our website for lots more information. Thanks for watching.
Produced by the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre. Funded by the New Zealand Government