Is Agriculture As Green As We Think It Is?

Images of smoke belching from the chimneys of factories, oil refineries or cars inching their way in a downtown street are typical images that come to one’s mind when one thinks of greenhouse emissions. On the other hand vast stretches of emerald fields and meadows nearby with flocks of sheep and cattle grazing idly conjure an image of perfect harmony with nature. This makes us believe that agriculture and animal husbandry are perfectly eco friendly occupations that do not threaten the atmosphere in any way.

The perfect picture post card scenario it seems is far from true according to scientists and agriculture experts and recent studies present a grim picture.

Let us take a quick look at the facts

– Agriculture accounts for 10% of all greenhouse emissions globally

– Paddy fields in particular release 10 million tonnes of methane which is 20% of all human produced methane emission

– Livestock comprising sheep and cattle are responsible for half of the global agricultural emissions with these animals releasing methane directly into the atmosphere.

– A vast amount of nitrous oxide is released due to the decaying of manure.

A fast growing world population demanding a higher and higher output of both grains and meat forced more and more wetlands/peat lands to be brought under agriculture. These lands store an estimated 300 billion to 700 billion tonnes of carbon and their degradation results in massive volumes of carbon dioxide emissions averaging 2 to 3 billion tonnes a year which is the equivalent of 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

This truly is a catch 22 situation, while bringing more lands under cultivation and increasing the number of animals being reared for meat threatens the eco system, producing less crops and meat threatens to starve the world’s growing population. While we can reduce industrial emission to an extent by driving around lesser, sharing cars to work using public transport and implementing pollution control measures in factories, how can we stop increasing agricultural activity in proportion to need. This is a question that needs to be addressed by agricultural experts and scientists.

The Reasons Agriculture is Important

Why is agriculture important? The concept of ‘food security’ is fundamentally important, and for that reason, agriculture is important. The task of feeding its people has been perhaps the first priority of its rulers throughout history. As such, agriculture is considered to be the very basis of political and social stability of a nation since times immemorial.

Moreover, the agricultural sector plays an important role in the sphere of providing large scale employment to people. Large and moderately large farms employ workers to undertake the various jobs relating to cultivation of crops and care of farm animals. In most of the countries of the world, agriculture still remains the biggest sector responsible for the employing and feeding a large percentage of the population.

Agriculture is also important from the point of view of appraising the standard of a country’s development, based on the competence of its farmers. Poorly trained farmers cannot apply the advanced methods and new technologies. The prominence of science and technology in the development of agriculture is quite clear from the words of Deng Xiaoping –

The development of agriculture depends first on policy, and second on science. There is neither any limit to developments in science and technology, nor to the role that they can play in the field of agricultural growth’.

Though agriculture often plays a contributory role in the ‘Gross Domestic Product’ – GDP – of most countries, it nevertheless requires a substantial boost from both the local and the international community.

Agriculture is traditionally based on bulk manufacturing. Harvesting is done once a season, most of the times, and stocked and used later. In fact, some thinkers opine that people have begun to adopt ‘batch processing’ and ‘stocking’ in manufacturing, as a result of the practices from agricultural thinking. Before industrialization, people with the biggest stocks of food and other supplies were considered more stable, and they were able to face challenges of nature without having to starve.

So important is the role of agriculture that new concepts keep ‘cropping up’ to give the traditional activity a modern turn. One such new concept the world is raving about these days is – the importance of ‘organic farming’. There is evidence that, apart from their numerous other benefits, organic farms are more sustainable and environmentally sound, giving agriculture a new dimension.

The importance of agricultural practices was further established when ‘Organic food’ began as a small movement decades ago, with gardeners and farmers rejecting the use of conventional non-organic practices. With the growth of the Organic food market now outpacing much of the food industry, many big companies have ventured into it. With the emergence of multi-national companies, and with the creation of a legal certification framework such as the Soil Association, there is every doubt that the very definition of organic food will change, making it more of a commercial activity than ever before!

In fact, modern agriculture has already undergone a sea-change from the ancient times. Today, the importance of agriculture lies in the fact that it is practiced both for subsistence as well as commercial reasons!

Top Tips for Selecting Quality Agricultural Tools

If you’re in farming, then budgets are likely to be tight and you’ll often be looking for economies. That’s virtually “business as usual” in agriculture.

However, one area you might not want to cut spending corners in is that of your tools. There might be little point in purchasing prestige items like for example Krone hay equipment if you then put that at risk by trying to maintain it with cheap tools.

So, here are some top tips for selecting quality tools.

1. Look for recognised quality brands. If they’ve been around a long time and have a reputation for quality, then they’re clearly doing something right. Be prepared to pay a little extra, if necessary, for that reassurance.

2. Learn a bit about metal descriptions. For example, if terms such as “HSS” or “Chrome Vanadium” don’t mean much to you, you should research them and other such technical designators. That’s because tool producers often use such designations to describe the quality of the metallurgy they use. Note that metal hardness isn’t always necessarily the only criterion behind selection – read up on that too.

3. Be certain you understand how different tools function and which one is right for the job. Most professional farmers or farm workers will have a good understanding of this but it’s still possible to see people using a totally inappropriate tool for the job. That can be dangerous and put at risk what you’re working on and perhaps any warranties you might have in place. In this sense, quality means “select tools that are fit for purpose”.

4. If you’re buying tools with a brand name you’ve never heard of, research them on the internet first. Try to find out where the manufacturer is based and get objective feedback on their products. Be alert to fraudulent sponsored feedback designed to mislead. You can often spot that by repetitious phraseology used in feedback comments, such as “exceptional value tools”, “truly exceptional quality items” and “an excellent product” all used by supposedly different purchasers in quick succession.

Look out also for feedback that is overly gushing (using lots of superlatives) and that which is left in a language that’s clearly not the native language of the supposed customer concerned. Finally, most legitimate positive feedback is usually terse, such as “good buy and I’m very pleased”. Be suspicious about lots of positive feedback that goes into unnecessary detail – it might suggest the reviewer is being paid by the word and is working too hard to prove their worth.

5. Purchase tools that offer a money-back guarantee. Use a credit card or other payment mechanism that offers you a degree of protection should you demand your money back. That means avoiding cash or cash transfer payment mechanisms.

6. Be very cautious with offers that look too good to be true. Some producers do offer loss-leaders when they’re getting started and that can lead to real bargains but it can also signify that a manufacturer is cutting corners big time on quality.

Good luck with your purchase!