Agriculture is one of mankind’s oldest organized endeavors, helping to spearhead the birth of civilization as arable land and access to water played a role in determining the location of fixed settlements. Over the millennia it has been agriculture that served as the source of food and clothing, and as items for trade—truly growing into a large-scale basis of the global economy.
As we’ve learned more about sustainability and the impact of greenhouse gases on the world’s climate, we’ve come to understand the double-edged sword of agriculture. On the one hand it’s a marvel of mankind’s ingenuity, showcasing our understanding of nature and our powers of observation, where we harness nature and select for plant and seed varieties that produce plants, fruit, vegetables, and grain that have attributes we want. As agriculture grows its yield per acre and makes good use of fertile lands, the plants we grow also draw in carbon from the atmosphere and help to sequester it in the soil.
Unfortunately, the soil of farm fields and agriculture waste also emit carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases. While these emissions are bad for the cumulative effect of GHGs on the atmosphere, they also present excellent opportunities to reduce the carbon intensity of agriculture.
Here are three ways farming can improve its carbon rating and its sustainability:
- Use low-till or no-till farming methods. By disturbing as little soil as possible when planting, farmers can keep much of the carbon sequestered in the soil. Each row of seeds is deposited in a four-inch-wide strip, strategically placed between the rows of root balls from the crops of years prior.
- Growing cover crops that reenergize the soil by helping to fix nitrogen at a molecular level and keep the soil from off-gassing its carbon, while also drawing additional carbon into the soil.
- Utilizing bacteria and microbial soil conditioners have the dual combination of helping plants to grow healthier while they deposit more carbon from the atmosphere into soil around the root structure of each plant.
Tracking Greenhouse Gases and Agriculture Using Blockchain and Smart Contracts
Each of these advanced sustainable agriculture techniques promises to reduce a certain amount of carbon emissions from the equation, while also improving the carbon sequestration of the soil of each acre of farm field. Smart contracts powered by blockchain can work with life cycle inventory modeling, such as that outlined by the Argonne GREET model, to determine the impact of each method when it is used over huge swaths of farmland. When the smart contract is set up with a farmer, the measurable result of an initiative that’s put in place by the farmer, where carbon reductions or sequestration are recorded for measurement and trigger the contract. The result is value placed on sustainability, recorded by blockchain and documented and certified, and in that we see great potential.