Mitigate climate change
Stockfree organic farming can help mitigate climate change in two keyways. The first is that in itself it is a low carbon method of farming, and the second is that it is an efficient means of growing food and so it requires less land to feed a given population (more on this in the next section).
Taking a look at the latest UK government GHG emissions statistics, the agricultural sector accounted for 11% of the UK’s total emissions in 2020, though this proportion varies for each of the devolved nations. From the Excel data table they provided, we were able to determine the following statistics for 2020. Most emissions from UK agriculture are in the form of methane/CH4 (55% of agricultural GHG emissions) and nitrous oxide/N2O (32% of agricultural GHG emissions). Upon further inspection, approximately 99% of these CH4 emissions are attributable to animal agriculture (from enteric fermentation and animal wastes) and a significant proportion of the N2O emissions are caused by inorganic N fertilisers and to a lesser extent animal manures (specific percentages for these sources of emissions were not given). It is worth noting that 80% of all N inputs in Europe are for animal feed crops.
In Scotland, where a lot of our work is focused, agriculture was the second largest sector for GHG emissions in 2021 (18.8% of total Scottish emissions). Of the agricultural sector’s emissions, 59% is attributable to CH4 emissions from animal agriculture, and N2O emissions from animal agriculture and inorganic N fertilisers accounted for 9% and 6% respectively (calculated from the dataset provided).
Given that inorganic N fertilisers and animal agriculture are the two leading causes of emissions in UK agriculture, stockfree organic farming has clear benefits when it comes to mitigating climate change since it necessarily excludes synthetic fertilisers, animals, and animal inputs.
However, the above statistics only relate to emissions from agriculture within the UK, and so the emissions from imported food also need consideration. Tim Lang in his book, Feeding Britain, notes that of the total UK food supply, 39-50% is imported (2021; p.xx). Additionally, much land from overseas is used to grow feed for UK livestock. In 2010, 64% of the cropland footprint for livestock feed was outside the UK. This figure had steadily risen from 55% in 1987 (de Ruiter et al., 2017).
So, if the UK were to become more self-sufficient at growing plants using stockfree organic methods, a lot of emissions would be reduced (including carbon dioxide from transporting food) and more land would be freed up abroad as well as at home.