Monday, December 26, 2016

Online Calculator Cuts Farms’ Greenhouse Emissions

An internet tool is now available which helps to quantify and control farms’ greenhouse emissions released during the crop production cycle.

Potato field in Germany: In the UK the Cool Farm Tool is boosting production while cutting carbon emissions. (Image Credit: Topfkiao via Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
It’s called the Cool Farm Tool (CFT)  – an easy-to-use online calculator which helps farmers monitor their emissions of greenhouse gases.

Agriculture accounts for about 15% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, though when fertiliser manufacture and use and the overall food processing sector are included in calculations, that figure is considerably higher. 

The land can also act as a vital carbon sink, soaking up or sequestering vast amounts of carbon: when soils are disturbed the carbon is released, adding to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The CFT was initially developed by researchers at the University of Aberdeen in the UK in partnership with Unilever and the Sustainable Food Lab. 

Now managed by a group including academics and food manufacturers called the Cool Farm Alliance, the CFT is free for farmers to download.

Various details, including the crops being planted, soil types and pH levels (the relative acidity or alkalinity of the land), are entered into a series of boxes.

Moisture levels, amounts and types of fertiliser used and general management details are also entered, along with information on quantities of diesel and electricity used in the cultivation and storage of crops and the fuel needed to transport goods on and off the farm.

Halving emissions
In 2010 PepsiCo, the drinks and food conglomerate, launched a programme aimed at making its operations more environmentally friendly.

In particular it sought to halve the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and water use arising from production at its Walkers Crisps factory at Leicester in the UK – the largest such plant in the world, producing five million packets of crisps (known as potato chips in the US) every day.

A central part of the PepsiCo project involved encouraging its potato suppliers to farm more sustainably through the use of the CFT and by using other devices to monitor and cut back on water use.  New potato varieties with improved yields were also introduced.

Within six years, the goal of halving carbon emissions and achieving a 50% reduction in water use was reached.

Read more at Online Calculator Cuts Farms’ Greenhouse Emissions

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