January 15, 2010
So let’s have ourselves a bit of a recap, eh? Yesterday we looked at the major environmental problems caused by the prominent industrialized agriculture America so heavily depends on. I listed 5, but for my typing fingers’ sake, we’ll address alternatives for 3 of them today, and finish up the rest tomorrow. So, let’s get on with it.
Through field preparation, planting, harvesting, and output transport, a lot of fossil fuels are consumed. Whether or not you want to face facts, fossil fuel consumption does in fact speed up the natural cycle of climate change, both local and global. So how doe we cut back on this massive energy footprint? It’s highly unlikely that you’ll see a hybrid combine out in the field any time soon. But there are viable, and beneficial, alternatives. Buy local, my friends. Imagine the difference in energy consumption between a massive cargo ship bringing in citrus from Spain versus that hour or two drive from a few counties over? In addition, you’re keeping that hard-earned money in the good ole’ US of A. But there are things that farmers can do to displace their energy footprint. I’m talking about selling animal waste and green manure as organic fertilizer. I’m talkin bout leasing some of your land for renewable energy sources. I’m talkin bout investing in the ecological natural capital that healthy ecosystems supply. Human ingenuity always finds ways of fixing the wrongs.
Problem numero deux: Water Issues. How does a farmer protect his/her crops from waterlogging and salinization? The solutions aren’t always economically viable, but they get the job done. The simplest answer is to irrigate less and stop growing crops on a plot for 2-5 years. More complex solutions include building underground drainage systems and flushing the land. See what I mean when I say they’re not so economically viable? All of those solutions, especially the latter two, are costly to the farmer … up front that is. In the long run the same farmer could be looking at higher costs due to losses from salinization/waterlogging. However, them crazy bioengineers have been hard at work. The race is on to develop seeds that develop into crops that can grow in salty soils and high water tables. Will that work? Well hell, all you gotta do is look at the amazing success of the GM crops that are in use today. If I were a betting man, I’d say the new ones will be just as popular.
Alright, last one: Soil Erosion. Serious soil erosion is possibly the most frustrating thing that a farmer can find onof his/her property, well, besides a swarm of locusts or Sarah Palin. I know how he feels, I find Sarah in my room everyday, like some hobo. It gets old after a while. But I digress. Soil erosion can occur in 3 ways:
- Sheet erosion: water/wind remove thin, uniform layers of topsoil
- Rill erosion: water runoff creates small cuts in the land as they flow
- Gully erosion: when you see this, you go “OH SHI-!” Those little water runoff streams combine to create huge ditches and gullies in the land. It’s expensive and time-consuming to fix.
So how do we fix this? It’s really about containing that soil, and the best way to do that is through planting. Now, you can plant whatever you’d like, grass is easy enough, right? Lol, grass doesn’t make you money though. My favorite is agroforestry in which crops are grown with trees dotting the area. The trees keep vast spaces of cropland under control. Remember when I told you we would keep this short for the sake of my fingers? Well my fingers just tapped out. Drop by to see me tomorrow when we’ll wrap this report up. I’ll leave you with these words by a Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.