For the past decade there has been growing awareness that climate change combined with a growing global demand for food is driving a need for climate smart agriculture. While we often hear solutions that talk about green house gasses and carbon sequestration, the first pillar of climate smart agriculture (CSA) – increasing agricultural productivity and incomes – can be addressed readily and immediately at the farm level with affordable technology.
What is climate smart agriculture?
In 2014, Leslie Lipper, Senior Environmental Economist with FAO, defined climate-smart agriculture (CSA) as an approach for transforming and reorienting agricultural development under the new realities of climate change. Lipper says this approach requires concepts, policies, technical tools and an investment framework. In this post we’ll focus on some simple and affordable technical tools that farmers can use today to adapt to climate change.
What are the three pillars of climate-smart agriculture?
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines climate-smart agriculture as consisting of three pillars:
(1) sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes (food security);
(2) adapting and building resilience to climate change (adaptation); and
(3) reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation), where possible.
Climate change means farmers today have to make different decisions
Crops have been grown the same way for generations. However, as climate changes it means that weather patterns aren’t the same as in our great grandparents or even grandparents’ time. The regional climate might be a lot wetter, drier, colder, or warmer than before. A case in point is that in South Dakota, over the last several decades, there has been a trend of warmer winter temperatures. Now, many areas of South Dakota are categorized one zone warmer, for example from 4a to 4b, or 4b to 5a. And we’ve all heard much about the severe drought conditions throughout the west and south.
The need for data to make more informed decisions
When that kind of weather change is happening, it impacts soil moisture, temperature, and salinity, and not just at the surface – it creates changes deep into the soil, layer by layer. The good news is that farmers who need to adapt to climate changes can use readily available, cost-effective below ground sensor technology to give them the data they need to make more informed decisions.
How to increase agricultural productivity and incomes
For years, farmers have focused primarily on driving yield, and soybean and corn growers could easily achieve maximum yield by applying a high amount of water and nutrients. Today, this is no longer practical, affordable, or sustainable. Even if water is available, it’s more expensive to pump it further as the ground water tables shrink. Adding to that the high price of fuel, nutrient prices have spiked sharply as well. That means the cost alone of this outdated practice makes it no longer practical. University of Nebraska has run a multi-year TAPS farm management competition where it has been demonstrated that a very good yield can be achieved with a minimal amount of inputs, and this increases farm profitability.
A further downside to applying excess water and nutrients is runoff and damage to the soil and surrounding environment. That aspect gets into the other pillars of climate smart agriculture and we’ll address that in a future article.
Crophesy by AquaSpy supports climate smart agriculture
At AquaSpy, we feel that technology should be affordable, easy to use in any soil, or any farm around the globe. When we envisioned Crophesy, we know that we wanted it to be easy to install, work virtually anywhere, in any crop, and give farmers the data they need to make better informed decisions about when the crop demand in the active root zone is greater than the available moisture. Read more about Crophesy and how it works here.