AUSTIN, Texas — America's agriculture industry contributes a relatively small amount of this country's greenhouse gases, but experts say various techniques that are growing in use can take a proactive approach to the issue - and farmers could play a key role in altering the path of climate change.
By implementing certain practices, said Johnathan Hladik, senior policy advocate for the Center for Rural Affairs, agricultural soils have the potential to pull carbon out of the air and reduce greenhouse gases.
"Our rural communities are uniquely positioned to help us as we work to adapt to climate change, and realizing how some small steps we can take can have a big impact on our environment," he said. "We're in that position and few other people are, so it's time to get smart, time to make a difference."
Hladik said practices his organization recommends include no-till techniques, planting trees, using cover crops and reducing fertilizer use. He said the idea is to farm in a way that promotes carbon sequestration.
"By choosing crops with deep root soil systems, by keeping those crops there for a little bit - think perennials versus annuals - then we have a chance to where farms can really help stem global warming," he said, "just by being smart about what you plant and how you manage that ground."
With agriculture varying greatly across the nation in terms of crops and soils, Hladik noted that each farmer or rancher can individualize their practices based on their own operations.
"The key here is that there is no 'one size fits all' approach," he said. "It's going to change based on what you farm and where you do it. So, knowing how you can tailor your operation to maximize benefits are the key to really moving forward."
Hladik said farmers also should look at adopting renewable energy practices, although he pointed out that agriculture contributes a relatively small portion of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions overall.