ROLE OF ORGANIC AGRICULTURE IN REDUCING THE USE OF NON RENEWABLE SOURCE OF ENERGY AND IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE
Organic agriculture is a agricultural system that uses ecologically based pest controls and biologically fertilizers derived largely from animal and plant wastes and nitrogen-fixing cover crops. Modern organic farming was developed as a response to the environmental harm caused by the use of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers in conventional agriculture, and it has numerous ecological benefits. Organic farming focuses on utilizing natural materials in agriculture and prohibiting the use of the chemical fertilizers and pesticides which ultimately ruins the fertility of land. Initially, the heavy use of chemical fertilizers increases the production of the land but as time passes the production capacity of land decreases and finally may reach to zero. It helps to produce safe, nutritious and quality food products together with maintaining ecological balance and its sustainability.
Organic agriculture reduces non-renewable energy use by decreasing agrochemical needs (these require high quantities of fossil fuel to be produced). It contributes to mitigating the greenhouse effect and global warming through its ability to sequester carbon in the soil. Many management practices used by organic agriculture (e.g. minimum tillage, returning crop residues to the soil, the use of cover crops and rotations, and the greater integration of nitrogen-fixing legumes), increase the return of carbon to the soil, raising productivity and favoring carbon storage. A number of studies revealed that soil organic carbon contents under organic farming are considerably higher. The more organic carbon is retained in the soil, the more the mitigation potential of agriculture against climate change is higher. Organic agriculture minimizes energy consumption by 30-70% per unit of land by eliminating the energy required to manufacture synthetic fertilizers, and by using internal farm inputs, thus reducing fuel used for transportation.
FAO promotes organic agriculture as an alternative approach that maximizes the performance of renewable resources and optimizes nutrient and energy flows in agro-ecosystems. Life cycle assessments show that emissions in conventional production systems are always higher than those of organic systems, based on production area. Soil emissions of nitrous oxides and methane from arable or pasture use of dried peat lands can be avoided by organic management practices. Many field trials worldwide show that organic fertilization compared to mineral fertilization is increasing soil organic carbon and thus, sequestering large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere to the soil. Lower greenhouse gas emissions for crop production and enhanced carbon sequestration, coupled with additional benefits of biodiversity and other environmental services, makes organic agriculture a farming method with many advantages and considerable potential for mitigating and adopting to climate change.
The WRI report estimates that agriculture contributes about 25 % of annual green house gases emissions globally. A little less than half of that results from what researches call “land-use change”, which mainly refers to clearing vegetation that would otherwise store carbon dioxide. A little more than half of those emissions are more directly related to the practice of farming: nitrous oxide that is released from fertilizers and methane released by livestock (both are much more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide) and fossil fuels related to the production and use of inputs (from tractor fuel to pesticides).
As global temperatures rise and weather patterns become more erratic, the intersection between climate change and agriculture is crucial to understanding the role of agriculture plays in contributing to mitigating global warming. Carbon sequestration, lower-input of fossil fuel dependent resources, and use of renewable energy all present opportunities for organic agriculture to lead the way in reducing energy consumption and mitigating the negative effects of energy emissions. Organic agriculture provides management practices that can help farmers adapt to climate change through strengthening agro-ecosystems, diversifying crop and livestock production, and building farmers’ knowledge base to best prevent and confront changes in climate. Attaining a friendly and green environment has always been a great concern worldwide, and research discloses that organic farming can partly offer a solution. Long term studies about organic agricultural practice reveal it can provides an impressive mechanism for promoting ecological harmony, biodiversity, and biological cycles, which are vital for environmental sustainability.
In conclusion, Organic farming averages 20% higher energy savings than conventional farming. Relying instead on natural and biological techniques for crop production gives organic farming the advantage in conserving energy by reducing the amount of inputs needed on the farm. It can help to tackle climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There is a direct correlation between nitrous oxide emissions and the amount of nitrogen fertilizer applied to agricultural land. Nitrous oxide emissions from managed soils account for almost 40% of agricultural emissions in the EU.
About the Author:
Santosh Sharma; B.Sc. Ag
Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science