According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s U.S. Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emission Report, the agriculture sector emits 10% of the total greenhouse gases (GHG) contributed to US industries. (Dairy farming consists of less than 2% of US emissions.) Playing a vital role in providing nutritious, balanced meals to Americans, farming is also helping combat climate change to create a safe, sustainable future without carbon pollution through regenerative agriculture.
Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming practices that focuses on soil health, water management, fertilizer use, and more, meant to improve how resources are used.
The impact of these practices is prominent in the farm’s fields. Plowing and tillage erodes soil over time and release carbon dioxide stored within the soil. By adopting low- or no-till practices, farmers minimize physical disturbance of the soil, keeping carbon dioxide stored in the ground and creating healthier soil for crops to thrive. After taking soil samples from each field to precisely match soil nutrient requirements with nutrients in the manure, farmers can adapt practices to what the land needs. Reduced or non-till methods are implemented to keep the soil intact. Farmers also rotate the plants grown throughout the year. By using cover crops to slow erosion and increasing the plant diversity within fields, the soil is better maintained for more productive harvests.
Dairy farmers in particular use their cows’ manure as a natural fertilizer, also running recycled water in the fields as irrigation to provide more nutrients while also cutting down on water usage. Additionally, a healthier soil holds more water, requiring less water to be used.
This is all done as part of a process called Carbon Sequestration, which refers to practices that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
And this can occur in more than the soil. Think back to elementary school science and photosynthesis. By using these fields to grow plants, the plants pull carbon dioxide from the air and transformed into oxygen, with the carbon being added to the soil.
By using regenerative agriculture for better crop yields while using less resources, farmers are improving sustainable methods within agriculture.