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Growing for the Future: How to Make Your Farm More Sustainable

New Zealand’s agriculture industry is one of the driving forces of the country’s economy.

It contributed an estimated $13.5 billion to the country’s gross domestic product in 2019.

In 2016, agricultural exports alone brought in over $28 billion into the country, according to the Environment Foundation.

It also provided over 86.7 jobs to citizens in 2019.

How to Make Your Farm More Sustainable

It makes sense that agriculture is a major contributor, as the country is filled with lush greens that are made for farming.

According to the New Zealand Government’s official statistics, over 12.1 million hectares of the country’s total land area was being used for agricultural and horticultural use in 2016.

That’s over 45 per cent of New Zealand’s land.

Farming and Greenhouse Gases

Although farming contributes to significantly to the economy, it also contributes a lot to the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Nearly half of NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, with livestock imparting most of the emissions.

Greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere.

They let light in, but they prevent heat from leaving the Earth and into space, like usual.

When too much heat gets trapped in the Earth, it can bring about significant changes to the weather.

Some regions may experience warmer than usual temperatures, significantly affecting their crops.

The heat can also melt glaciers and other ice structures, increasing the sea level. Significant rises in sea levels may cause widespread flooding in coastal areas.

This phenomenon is called global warming and its effects can alter and even harm the lives of everyone on Earth.

Farming practises, especially highly-industrialised ones, have the potential to harm the environment.

However, you can reduce your operations’ greenhouse gas emissions in a few ways.

Here’s how you can minimiseyour environmental effects with little to no impact on your farm’s productivity.

How to Make Your Farm More Sustainable

1. Keep Tillage to a Minimum

Tilling is often used by farmers to control weeds and mix organic matter into the soil.

However, this practise also erodes the soil and accelerates runoff, leading you to use more water than needed for your crops.

This is why some farmers are keeping tilling to a minimum. Others are even eliminating the practise in their farms altogether.

This is fairly easy to do, as you only need to insert your seeds in undisturbed soil.

You end up with healthier plants, fewer farm disc blade replacements and less water consumption by doing one less chore.

How to Make Your Farm More Sustainable

2. Get a Healthier Power Source

New Zealand is one of the lowest greenhouse gas-emitting countries mainly because of its sustainable energy sources.

If you’re still using energy that relies on fossil fuels and other unsustainable sources, it’s high time to make a change.

The country has organisations that provide energy from sustainable sources like:

  • Wind energy – New Zealand currently has over 17 wind farms in full operation. Combined, they provide over 690 megawatts of power, supplying about 6% of New Zealand’s overall yearly electricity. They provide their energy directly to the national grid. You could also purchase small-scale turbines to use for your farm.

The viability of wind turbines depends on how strong winds are in your farm. The wind is generally stronger in the coastal area.

If you live closer to the centre of the country, you may want to consider a backup power source, in case winds in your area get intermittent.

  • Solar energy – One of the more consistent ways to get sustainable energy is through solar panels. These are more accessible than wind turbines, too. Work with a solar energy company to find out which parts of your roof soak up the most sun and install panels onto it. Alternatively, they can also mount them on the ground and adjust the panels’ angles to get as much sunlight as they can.

Another sustainable power source that farmers can utilise is biofuel, which can use animal and plant waste as energy.

However, the process of creating and using biofuels is still subject to research.

How to Make Your Farm More Sustainable

3. Rotate and Diversify Your Crops

Crop rotation involves planting different crops in the same plot of land with the intention of optimising the soil and improving its health.

Planting the same plant every season can deplete certain nutrients in the soil.

For example, if you consistently plant corn, which consumes nitrogen, your soil may get its nitrogen completely seeped away by the crops, leaving it infertile.

Instead of planting corn over and over, you could rotate them with legume crops like peas and clovers, which cycle nitrogen into the soil.

This rotation keeps your dirt and ultimately your plants, healthy.

Farming is one of the backbones of New Zealand’s economy. However, it’s also one of the industries harming the country’s environment.

Make your operations friendlier to the Earth by considering these suggestions.

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