Crop cultivation, animal production and deforestation account for one third of the greenhouse gasses produced by humans in the past decade. But new research shows that improving crop yields--growing more food in a set amount of space--could reduce emissions by 12 percent per calorie.
Improving yield usually involves increasing the use of fertilizer, which would be counterproductive for reducing emissions. The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found that sustainable farming approaches can accomplish both goals of reducing emissions and providing more food. Phys.org reports:
"The most efficient way to ensure sustainable intensification on the crop side is to rely on practices and technologies that are not more fertilizer-demanding, such as new varieties, improved rotations, integrated crop-livestock practices, and precision farming," says IIASA researcher Hugo Valin, who led the study.
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A number of organizations, including the U.N., have also found that "agroecological" methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production, particularly in developing regions.