Ten percent of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions are from crop and livestock production, excluding emissions from the use of fossil fuels or fertilizer production.
Agricultural activities produce Greenhouse Gases (GHG) which end up in the atmosphere, but they can also remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it as soil organic carbon (SOC).
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
In gas state (CO2) is found in the Earth's atmosphere. Through photosynthesis, green plants convert this CO2, into sugars that the plant uses to grow. In turn, this plant material is then eaten by other organisms-microbes, cows, and humans, or decomposes into energy-rich carbon materials that can be stored for thousands or millions of years before being converted back to CO2.
For example, soils contain vast amounts of carbon in organic matter (humus), and the carbon in fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, which is solar energy trapped by plants eons ago.
Soil Carbon is dynamic. Changes in the amount of carbon stored in soil organic matter depend on the relative rates of carbon input from plant litter and carbon emitted as CO2 via decomposition. If carbon inputs are more significant than carbon loss, then the amount stored increases; if carbon input is less than carbon loss, the amount of carbon held decreases.
Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
Nitrous oxide emissions can originate directly from field-applied organic and inorganic fertilizers, crop residue decomposition, cultivation of organic soils, and from the storage of manure.
Scientists assume that about 1% of the nitrogen added to farm fields is emitted as N2O. However, this can vary widely due to soil water content influenced by the topography (especially hilliness) of the land and soil clay content. Wetter soils tend to have higher N2O emissions.
Farms operations can also produce indirect emissions. This is where N2O is made as part of day-to-day farm operations enters the environment and can impact the environment outside the farm's boundaries. The typical manner in which this happens is by N2O leaching from fields or emitted into the air as ammonia gas.
Once lost from the farm, this nitrogen can find its way into adjacent environments where it can be converted and emitted as N2O. Although not produced on farms, this N2O is from nitrogen used on the farm; hence, it must be counted as farm-derived N2O. A recent example of just such a situation occurred in Hullcar, B.C.
Ingestion of excessive amounts of nitrogen has been linked to various health problems.
When carbon-containing materials decay in a low oxygen environment, microbes in such environments produce methane. In farm operations, methane occurs either through enteric fermentation and through manure stored on farmers and feedlots.
Agriculture is historically significant in Kelowna, shaping both its development pattern and economy. Agricultural land plays an essential role in improving our residents’ quality of life, offers an aesthetically diverse landscape, is an essential part of our green infrastructure (retaining rainwater, preventing flooding and recharging aquifers), and ensures food security. An agriculture plan focuses on a community's farm area to discover practical solutions to challenges, identify opportunities to strengthen farming and ultimately contribute to agriculture and the community's long-term sustainability.
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