To curb carbon emissions, New Zealand came up with a Zero-Carbon Amendment Bill aimed at neutralizing carbon emissions by 2050. The bill specifies two types of Carbon:
- greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel from industries and individual emissions, and
- biogenic methane that is produced by the agricultural sector, MFE 2019.
Given that the agricultural emissions account for 49.2% of total emissions in 2016 which are mostly from agriculture activities and livestock farming, the pastoral sector is facing increasing pressures to reign in on their 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 who are 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 the 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 fertilizers 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 it, 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 own heifer but puts the herd to beef bulls, selling most of the calves and buying replacement stock when needed. A recycling process that can reduce carbon emissions that would otherwise be produced when rearing your own herd of heifers.
It’s important that farmers need to be mature when dealing with these issues he further adds.
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 of GPS technology to pinpoint areas that need fertilizer 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 in his farm in Southland, Mark Anderson wished that he had started what he’s doing now 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 like a natural armour of the soil its roots hold on to the soil while enriching it via liquid carbon, feeding the soil organisms all year round.
- It also filters water, which can clean up rivers, slowing down water cycle, reduce soil nutrients and losses due to erosion, thus increasing the soil’s resilience to drought and wet water conditions.
He is also applying diversity planting resulting in pest-resistant crops and encourage insect biodiversity. Doing this eliminates the need for pesticides in his farm, he says.
He is quite amazed at what good farming practices can do and truly believes that soil health can contribute to curbing New Zealand’s carbon emissions.