Climate-Smart Agriculture: More Than Technologies

The world’s population is growing and is projected to rise to more than 9 billion over two decades. Due to this fact, it is necessary to increase agricultural production to meet the significant demand for food. Furthermore, climate change has become a substantial challenge for farmers. Extreme weather conditions, shorter growing seasons, exposure to pests, and drought are significant barriers to increased production. Sustainable farming practices and modern technological solutions, including ag weather, help farmers be more prepared for changing conditions. In addition, climate-smart farming practices offer farmers different solutions to problems.

Climate-Smart Agriculture Basics

Climate-smart agriculture combines various methods and practices from sustainable farming to address the climate-related challenges of particular farms. Climate-smart farming is “smart” because the concept involves increasing resilience and finding a combination of methods to address climate challenges. Agrarians can face adverse and extreme weather events, so the first step is to assess the risks. Various tools help identify climate risks.

For example, cover crops improve soil fertility and water-holding capacity, where crops may be subject to prolonged drought. Where there are issues of the opposite nature, such as the threat of heavy rains, planting cover crops can also help if this practice is combined with runoff control by plant barriers. However, this approach is not versatile.

The 3 Pillars of CSA

Climate-smart programs seek to increase productivity sustainably and increase farmers’ income. A critical point of any such program is to reduce the negative impact on the environment. Improving food and nutrition security is also an essential goal of climate-smart farming.

Adaptation is another pillar of the CSA. Maintaining and protecting ecosystems plays a crucial role here. In the context of climate change, it is vital to reduce the exposure of agricultural lands to short-term risks, to strengthen their resilience and adaptability.

The third key point of any CSA program is mitigation. Foremost, we are talking about introducing practices that contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This item involves reducing emissions for every kilogram or calorie of food, fuel, and fiber produced. In addition, stopping deforestation for farmland and maximizing the capacity of soil and trees to absorb carbon dioxide is also essential.

Key CSA practices and technologies

CSA encompasses various agricultural practices and technologies, including precision farming, fertilization, and tillage. All presented methods aim to adapt to climate change, eliminate the consequences, and improve the productivity of farms. Most of them help prevent soil degradation and improve its ability to retain greenhouse gases. In addition, many of these sustainable practices also enable more efficient use of resources.

Soil management

Enhanced management contributes to improved soil health. Soil improvement activities contribute to CSA in three key ways. Implementation of the practices that improve soil health, soil fertility, and the availability of moisture and nutrients. Enhanced management contributes to improved soil health. In addition, improved management helps prevent erosion.

Together, all these activities provide an opportunity to increase the productivity of the fields. In terms of adaptation, soil management also plays a vital role by reducing the risk of runoff and soil erosion, for example, through contouring, surface mulching, land tracing, and reforestation. Improved management activities can also mitigate impacts by maintaining the soil’s natural carbon storage capacity.

The measures that help mitigation include adding organic matter and growing trees in crop fields. Greenhouse gas emissions can also be reduced by decreasing the number of inorganic nitrogen fertilizers and improving their strategic placement. This approach also allows farmers to save money.

Crop production

Increased productivity can be achieved through effective nutrient management and the selection of crops with high yield potential under the given conditions. In addition, the choice of crop varieties that are characterized by higher resistance and yield also contributes to this.

Managing climate risk by growing drought-resilient plants or crops with a relatively short maturation period will also help adapt and reduce the risk of crop failure.

Climate risks can also be reduced by choosing plants that are resistant to diseases and pests. Long-term adaptation can be achieved by developing more resistant crop varieties less affected by high temperatures and drought. It is also possible to select the cultivation of perennials together with annuals as a strategy for long-term adaptation. Moreover, the cultivation of perennial crops contributes more significantly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Water management

Adaptation is largely driven by efficient water use and reduced water use through improved irrigation and management systems. Implementing innovations to reduce plant water stress by improving rainfall capture and retention will increase field productivity. Irrigation planning can also play an important role in increasing yields. Irrigation management also provides mitigation, including methane and other greenhouse gases emissions reduction. For example, an irrigation system that alternates wetting and drying cycles in rice fields helps to reduce methane emissions. There are also irrigation strategies that require less water for irrigation, which reduces the energy consumption of the pumps.

Livestock management

Animal husbandry, along with crop production, is affected by climate change. This influence affects the quality of feed and its quantity. In addition, in some regions, animals can also be exposed to heat stress, rainfall, and extreme weather events, which provoke the spread of macroparasites and diseases. Fortunately, CSA offers a wide range of activities to improve sustainability, improve productivity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Entry points to climate-smart farming for livestock are related to soil and water management, insurance, and production chains.

Forestry and Agroforestry

Agrarians can also apply the CSA concept in forestry and agroforestry. The forestry production can be carried out using the CSA approach. Joint cultivation of trees and crops allows farmers to increase income through product diversity and also helps to improve soil conditions. In addition, diverse ecosystems can better adapt to climate change, as they are more resilient to extreme weather events.

Trees also help strengthen river banks and help resist erosion. Climate-smart farming practices help mitigate impacts, but they help reduce deforestation and degradation. In addition, trees are excellent at absorbing and retaining carbon.

Capture fisheries and aquaculture

Inland and coastal aquaculture ecosystems also need effective management systems to improve productivity. Sustainable management of these ecosystems can intensify production and reduce disease losses. Adaptation can also be promoted through climate risk management.

About 30% of annual emissions are absorbed in the aquatic environment. It occurs mainly in seagrasses and mangroves, so it is vital to stop the disruption of carbon sequestration caused by coastal habitat destruction. For this, flexible fishing strategies are used to reduce weather-related hazards through a warning system.

Energy management

The agri-food system needs energy at all stages of production, including storage and transportation. These systems require several types of energy, such as mechanical energy, electricity, and various fuels. Efficient management of energy sources and the use of sustainable renewable sources will help reduce the negative impact on the environment. In addition, renewable energy sources reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Biodiversity management

Climate-smart agriculture includes many combinations to help make agriculture more resilient in the face of climate change and increase farm productivity. Growing improved and genetically diverse varieties suitable for various conditions contribute to more sustainable farming and production systems. The use of varietal blends leads to improved adaptation and increased production, as different crop varieties can respond differently to unpredictable weather conditions, which increases stability. Farmers can simultaneously grow different types of crops on the same field, use mixtures of varieties, crop rotation, and relay sowing. In addition, combining crop production systems with aquaculture and livestock production is also an effective solution to increase sustainability.

Integrated Pest Management

This approach can be used in changing farming environments. Farmers who understand the principles of integrated pest management are better prepared for climate change. The main point of effectively integrated combat is making the right decisions in the field. It is essential to understand ecological processes and encourage natural control mechanisms.

Farmers can maintain an ecological balance between pest populations and their natural enemies. Field monitoring also plays a vital role in the early detection of problems. Loose soil and moist environments are suitable environments for the development of weeds. Crops on such soils are less resistant to climate change. Cover crops and crop rotation helps prevent pests and weeds.

Sustainable mechanization

Mechanization and appropriate machinery for sustainable management allow farmers to diversify their means and expand the range of activities. Sustainable mechanization improves transportation and creates opportunities for hired services. Investments in agricultural mechanization are offset by increased agricultural productivity. In addition, sustainable mechanization can significantly increase the amount of cultivated land and use resources more efficiently.

Technologies for decision-making

Innovative technologies and scientific tools make a significant contribution to improving decision-making efficiency. Farmers can use simple and reliable tools to make decisions on a seasonal and long-term basis. They can help plan strategies to combat climate change.

Technologies for weather forecasting and early warning systems are also crucial for risk management. They allow farmers to protect crops before damage occurs. Weather stations also allow you to control irrigation and water plants according to their needs. Thus, irrigation is automatically adapted to climate change.

Final thoughts

Climate-smart agriculture includes sustainable methods that are combined depending on the conditions on the farm and the crops grown. This concept can help to provide food security, adapt to climate change, and eliminate factors that negatively affect the environment.

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