To curb carbon emissions, New Zealand came up with a Zero-Carbon Amendment Bill to neutralise carbon emissions by 2050. The bill specifies two types of Carbon:
- greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels from industries and individual emissions, and
- biogenic methane that is produced by the agricultural sector, MFE 2019.
Agricultural emissions accounted for 49.2% of total emissions in 2016, mostly from agricultural activities and livestock farming. The pastoral sector is facing increasing pressures to reign in its carbon emissions (Farmers feel New Zealand, 2019).
So what are these climate change actions these three NZ farmers are doing?
Stuff NZ interviewed three New Zealand farmers incorporating climate change action as part of their daily work. They all say that the rewards speak for themselves.
“I don’t make climate change-based decisions for what we do on-farm. I don’t. But as it happens, there’s a great deal of overlap between what is good for the climate and what is good for all sorts of other things,” Christopher Falconer, a Waikato dairy farmer, told Stuff about mitigating the effects of climate change.
Falconer revealed he does not do any cropping on his farm to build organic matter in the soil, which holds moisture in dry periods. He said that the no-cropping system he implemented prevents him from using artificial fertilisers for more than a year, reviving the pasture’s soil fauna, soil health, and longevity.
- He breeds cows that produce milk more efficiently, thus reducing the number of cattle but still producing the same amount of milk.
- He protects wetlands on his farm by building a fence around them and plants so many trees that he loses count.
- One of his projects is a 250K effluent system to manage cattle wastes effectively.
- He does not rear his heifer but puts the herd to beef bulls, selling most of the calves and buying replacement stock when needed. A recycling process can reduce carbon emissions that would otherwise be produced when rearing your herd of heifers.
He further adds that farmers need to be mature when dealing with these issues.
Beck and Richard Toswill
Farming sheep and beef in their 646 hectares of the hill country, Beck and Richard Toswill have the future in mind. The Toswills respect their land and want to protect the environment.
What the Toswills have done and are doing:
- Retired areas of land unsuited to stock and have panted over 28 thousand trees.
- Use GPS technology to pinpoint areas that need fertiliser and avoid applying near waterways, making farming more efficient.
- Protect their limestone spring wetland, placing it under the QEII national trust to protect it even if their land is sold.
- As the Toswills have climate change in mind, they continue to look for areas to improve.
Working on his farm in Southland, Mark Anderson wished that he had started what he’s doing 15 years earlier.
“We’re mainly focusing on the soil health to grow nutrient-dense plants, and then not only to feed the soil, but feed our animals, and the people who consume our products,” Anderson says in the article.
Mark shares some of his learning:
- Vegetation acts as a natural armour of the soil. Its roots hold on to the soil while enriching it via liquid Carbon, feeding the soil organisms year-round.
- It also filters water, which can clean up rivers, slowing the water cycle, and reduce soil nutrients and losses due to erosion, thus increasing the soil’s resilience to drought and water conditions.
He is also applying diversity planting resulting in pest-resistant crops and encouraging insect biodiversity. Doing this eliminates the need for pesticides on his farm, he says.
He is quite amazed at what good farming practices can do and believes that soil health can contribute to curbing New Zealand’s carbon emissions.
Black, R. (2019, September 17). Here are three farmers who are taking action on climate change [news]. Retrieved https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/115485719/collateral-good-farmers-address-emissions-and-productivity
Fuller, P. (2019, September 13). Farmers feel New Zealand has turned its back on them [news]. Retrieved from https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/115734506/farmers-feel-new-zealand-has-turned-its-back-on-them
Climate Change Response (Zero-Carbon) Amendment Bill. (2019). Ministry for the Environment. Retrieved from https://www.mfe.govt.nz/climate-change/zero-carbon-amendment-bill