By Kelly Murray Young, Educational Resource Manager, Field to Market
Climate considerations add to the complex and sometimes confusing matrix of agronomic decisions growers must make each season, and ag retailers have an opportunity to demonstrate their expertise and leadership in climate-smart agriculture. By helping the producers they serve become more resilient to the effects of climate change, ag retailers can simultaneously drive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from farming operations.
In the U.S., average temperatures have increased 1.5°F since the last century. Cropping regions are shifting, for better or worse, and making “business as usual” approaches to agronomic decision-making risky. Unpredictable and extreme weather conditions are already having devastating impacts on yields. Because so many producers turn to their retailers for agronomic advice on the products and services they need, it’s incumbent upon those trusted advisers to equip themselves with the needed tools to support producers as they face the multifaceted challenges of climate change.
Build Resilience in Farming Operations
An ag retailer might in many ways help build resilience to climate change. For example, integrated pest management offers a comprehensive strategy for reducing yield losses due to extended or new pest pressure. Precision irrigation management applies the correct amount of water to crop roots at the right time to mitigate the effects of drought. Exploring options that add organic matter and minimize soil disturbance, such as cover crops and minimal tillage, can lead to improving the soil’s health and water-holding capacity.
Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Production Systems
Ag retailers can also help producers decrease the amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane emitted from their operations. Lowering CO2 emissions by cutting the amount of fossil fuel burned coincidentally can also lead to significant cost savings. Implement 4R nutrient stewardship and manure management to optimize nutrient uptake and reduce nitrogen losses. If you work with rice producers, then explore alternative irrigation techniques to shorten the length of time fields are flooded and decrease methane emissions.
Be a Hero
Agricultural retailers are in a powerful position to influence agronomic decisions that continuously improve environmental outcomes, farm profitability and the vibrancy of rural communities. Fortunately, you aren’t in this alone. The Agricultural Retailers Association, American Society of Agronomy, Environmental Defense Fund and Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture have teamed up to equip trusted farmer advisers with the tools and other resources to help their clients improve the sustainability of their operations. Tools include the following:
- Six online learning modules—hosted by the American Society of Agronomy’s CCA classroom—to know the what, why and how of agricultural sustainability.
- A training manual that encourages ag retail teams to examine the concepts discussed in the modules more deeply.
- Eight customizable fact sheets to explain the top environmental issues being addressed in production agriculture to customers.
- Five case studies that explore the economic benefits of implementing practices that improve environmental outcomes for farming operations.
Visit www.fieldtomarket.org/sparc to learn more and access the resources. Contact Kelly Murray Young, educational resource manager at Field to Market, at [email protected] with any questions or if you would like to discuss personalized sustainability training for your employees.