The Intelligent Future is What We Need to Save the Environment

Farmers are the best stewards of the land. When their fields suffer, so does their livelihood. While we all benefit from a healthy environment, nobody has a greater incentive to manage this important resource with care, ensuring the land continues to be productive year after year. At the same time, there’s plenty of room for farmers to do even more, on a global scale.

 

Farmers can and should become the driving force to solving our collective climate crisis.

 

Farmland is one of nature’s great carbon sinks. Crops draw CO2 from the air and convert it into oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. Much of the carbon absorbed is stored within the plant’s internal structure. As the growing process unfolds, the plant will shed leaves and roots, which are stored in the soil in the form of organic material. Increasing that organic material content — currently about 0.27 percent of the soil — would dramatically enhance agriculture’s position as a leading contributor to a climate change solution, while also maintaining productivity for future crops.

 

Recent studies show smarter farm management practices can transform the soil’s capacity as a carbon sink. Simply by increasing the soil’s organic content to 0.54 percent, cropland could sequester an extra 1.85 gigatons of carbon per year.[1] That’s the equivalent of slashing the amount of fossil fuels burned annually by 20 percent.[2]

 

The difference is, the steps required to reduce fuel usage by one-fifth would come at a dramatic cost. It would mean driving less and turning down the thermostat. It would mean reduced production and labor capacity. While taking these steps could also uncover some indirect benefits, such as greater efficiency, changes of that magnitude are necessarily quite expensive and difficult to implement.

 

By contrast, growers can boost the land’s sequestration potential with improved farming and soil conservation techniques. Done right, it can be just as good for the farmer as it is for the environment, and it won’t break the bank. However, modern farmers may face indecision paralysis when it comes to utilizing these best management practices. The ability to identify where these techniques will have the greatest and most critical impact may be the most important step in making real, valuable change for farmers and the surrounding ecosystem.

 

As we’ll discuss in greater depth in our next installment, intelligent farming techniques can also be applied to reducing waste, managing nitrogen, and enhancing the land’s carbon sequestration capacity. Artificial intelligence will become a key player in the battle against climate change, without compromising food and economic security.

 


 

[1] https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-15794-8

[2] https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/outreach/behind_the_scenes/gases.html

 


About Al:

Al is passionate about leveraging data to solve problems. At IntelinAir, that means feeding a growing population, driving efficiency and improving grower profitability. Before IntelinAir, Al co-founded IconApps, Integrien Corporation, and CreationPoint Systems—all with successful exits, and held leadership roles at LowerMyBills and Minebea.

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