Agriculture

The Netherlands has a great history in agriculture. The sector is modern and profitable. But with climate change in mind the sector needs to have a very good look at the way it operates. It needs to make some fundamental changes - changes that can have a great positive impact on their profitability as well as the environment surrounding them.

As a first step I have generated a list of the most relevant go-to options we have. For now I will strictly focus on The Netherlands. As a general guidance I will use the book 'Drawdown - The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to roll back global warming' by Paul Hawken.

 

Together with experts in the field I am going to challenge this list. It is therefore an ongoing framework. You will find all the updates below, specified for each specific solution we can opt for.

01. Silvopasture

Drawdown: 'Silvopasture ('Bosbeweiding') is an ancient practice that integrates trees and pasture into a single system for raising livestock. Research suggests silvopasture far outpaces any grassland technique for counteracting the methane emissions of livestock and sequestering carbon under-hoof. Pastures strewn or crisscrossed with trees sequester five to ten times as much carbon as those of the same size that are treeless, storing it in both biomass and soil.'

02. Regenerative Agriculture

Drawdown: 'Conventional wisdom has long held that the world cannot be fed without chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. Evidence points to a new wisdom: The world cannot be fed unless the soil is fed. Regenerative agriculture enhances and sustains the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content, which in turn improves productivity—just the opposite of conventional agriculture.

Together, these practices increase carbon-rich soil organic matter. The result: vital microbes proliferate, roots go deeper, nutrient uptake improves, water retention increases, plants are more pest resistant, and soil fertility compounds. Farms are seeing soil carbon levels rise from a baseline of 1 to 2 percent up to 5 to 8 percent over ten or more years, which can add up to 25 to 60 tons of carbon per acre.'

03. Conservation Agriculture

Drawdown: 'Plows are absent on farms practicing conservation agriculture, and for good reason. When farmers till their fields to destroy weeds and fold in fertilizer, water in the freshly turned soil evaporates. Soil itself can be blown or washed away and carbon held within it released into the atmosphere. Tilling can make a field nutrient poor and less life-giving.

 

Conservation agriculture was developed in Brazil and Argentina in the 1970s, and adheres to three core principles:

  1. Minimize soil disturbance: absent tilling, farmers seed directly into the soil.

  2. Maintain soil cover: farmers leave crop residues after harvesting or grow cover crops.

  3. Manage crop rotation: farmers change what is grown and where.'

04. Tree Intercropping

Drawdown: 'Like all regenerative land-use practices, tree intercropping—intermingling trees and crops—increases the carbon content of the soil and productivity of the land. The arrangement of trees and crops varies with topography, culture, climate, and crop value. Tree intercropping has many variations. Alley cropping is a system in which trees or hedges are planted in closely spaced rows to fertilize the crops grown between.'

05. Composting

Drawdown: 'Nearly half of the solid waste produced globally is organic or biodegradable. Much of it ends up in landfills; there, it decomposes in the absence of oxygen and produces the greenhouse gas methane, which is up to 34 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a century. While many landfills have some form of methane management, it is far more effective to divert organic waste to composting.

Human beings have long used compost to feed gardens and fields. Today, it is especially useful for managing growing urban waste streams. In 2009, San Francisco passed an ordinance that makes composting the city’s food waste mandatory. Copenhagen, Denmark, has not sent organic waste to landfill in more than twenty-five years, reaping compost’s win-win-win of cost savings, fertilizer production, and reduced emissions.'

06. Nutrient Management

Drawdown: 'Nitrogen fertilizers have vastly improved the productive capacity of agricultural systems in the past century. Some of the synthetic nitrogen is taken up by crops, increasing growth and yield. The nitrogen that is not utilized by plants, however, causes untold problems:

  • Chemically destroying organic matter in the soil.

  • Seeping into waterways; creating algal blooms and oxygen-depleted oceanic dead zones; and causing major fish kills.

  • Causing global warming, as soil bacteria convert nitrate fertilizers into nitrous oxide—298 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in its warming effect.

Implementation of this solution is simple: It requires farmers to moderately reduce their inputs rather than undertake a new practice or install a new technology. Education, assistance, incentives, and regulation can accelerate adoption. The true solution to nutrient management, however, is rotational, regenerative land practices that eliminate most, if not all, need for synthetic nitrogen.'