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The effect of avocado cultivation on climate. A real climate catastrophe has fueled in Mexico – science

The effect of avocado cultivation on climate.  A real climate catastrophe has fueled in Mexico - science

These traditional rice terraces seem to be a model of ecological and eco-friendly crops. But it is not. Millions of hectares of rice fields in Southeast Asia are producing more and more methane, a greenhouse gas. And these aren’t the only climate-damaging crops like industry or meat production.

Scientists point to other plants that should be significantly reduced in our diet for the benefit of the planet. Or quickly change the way it grows.

Time is running out because according to the latest report from the World Meteorological Organization, which was released at the end of October, just before the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, the level of greenhouse gases has reached a record since pre-industrial times. . The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 149%. higher than at the beginning of the 19th century, and methane – by as much as 262 percent.

Scientists are also very concerned about the rapid increase in the concentration of nitrous oxide, which also comes from agricultural crops. It is a greenhouse gas of up to 290 percent. Stronger than carbon dioxide – says prof. Zbigniew Karaczun of Warsaw University of Life Sciences, an expert at the Climate Alliance. Today it is in the atmosphere at 123 percent. More than in the pre-industrial era. If the concentration of the three greenhouse gases – methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide – continues to grow at the same rate as in the past few decades, then at the end of the century we will see a much greater increase in temperature than previously assumed 1.5 -2 ° C – the authors of the report warn.

Read also: Meat is worse on Earth than cars and smoking factories

methane swamp

The rice fields near Sabo aren’t always so charming. After harvesting, the green terraces turn into muddy puddles as the remains of the rice bushes rot. The byproduct of the decomposition of plant residues in flooded paddy fields is methane gas, which is released into the atmosphere. And methane is a stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide – says the professor. Simon Malinowski, atmospheric physicist, director of the Institute of Geophysics at the University of Warsaw.

Scientists have known for years that rice fields, which are the primary source of food for nearly half of humanity, are contributing to global warming. So far, it has been estimated that the methane gas released into the atmosphere annually from rice fields is responsible for 2.5 percent. The effect of global warming on Earth, but it seems to be much worse now. Therefore, in order to reduce the release of methane into the atmosphere, a new technology for managing rice terraces was started in Asia. The fields are alternately flooded and dried after harvest, which inhibits the action of putrefactive bacteria and the release of methane gas.

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However, this did not help much, because nitrous oxide is released from flooded and drained terraces, scientists from the independent US Environmental Protection Agency recently discovered. This gas is produced 45 times more than when the fields are still underwater. The scientists wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the additionally released nitrous oxide equates to the emissions of 1,200 coal-fired power plants annually.

As the climate warms, rice fields will release more and more methane, and at the same time they will be able to extract less and less rice from them. Scientists at Trinity College London have warned that the amount of methane per kilogram of rice will double by the end of this century. This is the conclusion from a study of 63 experimental crops in Asia and North America, which examined how a potential increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels would affect rice yields and the level of methane released.

cut the great forest

The crops that the world needs in large quantities are the most harmful to the environment. In addition to rice, soybean and oil palm, that is, guinea oilseeds, are the source of palm oil that dominates the food industry. Soy is found in thousands of products for vegetarians and vegans and is the basis of animal feed in much of the world.

Oil palm is mainly grown in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South America is dominated by soybean crops. All these countries are covered with tropical rainforests. Leafy plants – which are organic matter – contain a lot of carbon. In order to have a place for planting palms or soybeans, forests are cut down. Deforestation is a catastrophic activity from a climatic point of view. Crops cannot accumulate as much carbon as forests. As a result of deforestation, logging and subsequent oxidation of dead organic matter or forest burning, this removed carbon in the form of dioxide ends up in the atmosphere – explains the professor. Malinovsky.

Greenpeace has warned that the worst climate situation is in Indonesia. There, millions of hectares of bush growing in moist peat bogs have been cleared for the cultivation of oil palm trees. But the oil palm does not like moisture. Therefore, peat bogs, which are huge reservoirs of carbon compounds, need to be drained. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere, and dried peat bogs are ignited with the slightest spark. All this put Indonesia in third place among the countries with the highest carbon dioxide emissions in the world.

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It’s not much better in South America, and especially in Brazil, where swathes of the Amazon are cut down to grow soybeans. Brazil’s production of soybeans has quadrupled in the past 20 years, and the Amazon rainforest has shrunk by 20% in the past 50 years due to logging alone. Researchers from the University of Bonn have calculated that in municipalities of Brazil where soybeans are grown, carbon dioxide emissions are up to 200 times higher than in municipalities where soybeans are not grown. – This is not only Brazil’s problem. Climate scientist Jonas Carstensen of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo says global appetites for soybeans, like beef, are leading to deforestation in South America.

But maybe that will change. At the recent COP26 summit in Glasgow, leaders of 100 countries with 80% of the world’s forests pledged to stop logging by 2030. Brazil, Indonesia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Russia.

Avocado Delicious

The amount of crops that will destroy the climate is determined not only by the decisions of politicians, but also by the choices of consumers. This illustrates the history of avocado cultivation. Even 30-40 years ago, this fruit was almost unknown in Europe, and today it is considered one of the healthiest. Our appetite for a healthy diet fueled a real climatic disaster in Mexico, where avocados originally grow and where their biggest crop remains today. This fruit also began to be cultivated in Chile and Colombia. In order to meet the market demand, farmers in these countries are clearing the forest.

Growing avocados also requires huge amounts of water. To produce one kilogram of this fruit, you need to use up to 600 liters of water. Often it is pumped from other places or obtained from deep wells. Then, in order for avocados to reach Europe, they have to travel thousands of kilometers, often by planes or ships, which increases what is called the carbon footprint, that is, the amount of carbon dioxide that enters the atmosphere due to its production and transportation. According to the estimates of the English company Carbon Footprint, two avocados purchased in England equate to 846 grams of pure carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, which is twice the equivalent of a kilogram of bananas.

Soil is barely there

All intensive crops, especially those of monoculture, where the same plants are grown year after year, very quickly erode the soil, that is, depriving it of organic matter. These substances are released into the atmosphere in the form of carbon compounds. For example, the intensive cultivation of sugarcane in recent years has eroded soils in Papua New Guinea so that 40 percent of it has evaporated. Carbon resources stored in the Earth – calculated by specialists from the environmental organization WWF.

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The same processes occur in our agriculture, which is increasingly dominated by multi-ha grain crops, monocultures from cereals or forage plants. These crops change soil conditions faster and cause loss of organic matter from the soil. In developed countries, intensive fertilizing with nitrogen fertilizers is also a problem. – If a farmer uses nitrogen fertilizers incorrectly or sprays more than the plants can use in the growth process, the excess turns into nitrous oxide and is released into the atmosphere, enhancing the greenhouse effect – explains the professor. Zbigniew Karaczun.

There are ways to slow or prevent the release and erosion of soil carbon. – The solution, for example, the so-called prof. says. Simon Malinowski. A study by the European Conservation Cultivation Association found that if European farmers were to cultivate the land without tilling, they could retain up to 200 million tons of carbon dioxide in the soil. The EU’s carbon dioxide emissions balance will fall by 22 percent. by 2030

To reduce carbon dioxide emissions, we must return some farmland to its wild, natural state. This applies to organic soils that were swampy or in floodplains that have been drained for cultivation. They still contain a large amount of organic matter. If we return these soils to wetlands, then carbon release from them will stop, and we will also improve water relations in neighboring areas – says the professor. Karachon. In addition, you need to use agricultural practices that are not very popular today, for example planting so-called picking or harvesting crops, leaving trees in the middle of fields and forest boundaries between fields or vegetation belts to prevent fertilizers from flowing into lakes and rivers. – However, these remedies are not economically beneficial to farmers, and therefore many farmers do not use them – the professor believes. Karachon.

Feeding the eight billion people on Earth cannot do without climate loss. However, it is worth remembering that vegetable crops, even those with a higher carbon footprint, are less harmful to the environment than meat farming.

Read also: Climate change may be one of the reasons for the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic – say scientists from Cambridge

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