Video games take climate change seriously

Many farmers here are focused on monoculture, planting only corn or soybeans. These crops are annual plants; each year the fields are prepared and planted, using large amounts of energy, fertilizers and pesticides. Excess agrochemicals seep from field to field, polluting waterways and killing beneficial insects, while constant plowing accelerates soil erosion. In years of excess water, such as the 2019 floods, these adverse effects can be exacerbated.

But what if many of these problems, ecological and economic, could be alleviated by going back to Midwestern roots? Instead of growing one or two dominant crops, could some farmland be planted with perennial, native, nut or fruit trees?

Trees stabilize soils while retaining and filtering water, encourage biodiversity, which can reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides, and temper the effects of a changing climate. And nuts and fruits can be harvested and sold, diversifying a farmer’s crops and sources of income.

The shift from monoculture to diverse multicultural farms presents some bottlenecks, but researchers are working to help farmers with agroforestry – because combining woody perennials like trees and shrubs with crops annuals is known – and support nut tree markets. If successful, agroforestry could be a boon to farmers and communities across the Midwest.

Alley cropping like this co-planting of soybeans between rows of walnut trees allows farmers to diversify their crops, while reaping the benefits of perennial plants (water storage, soil erosion prevention, shade and breakers). wind, etc.). NAC / CC BY 2.0

Annual planting, annual challenges

Plantation annuelle, défis annuels

Row cropping is king in the Midwest, covering three-quarters of all land. Corn and soy cover most of the fields and the production of these singular species guzzles energy: worldwide, agriculture is responsible for a large part of man-made emissions (10 to 12% of the CO2 and 54% of other greenhouse gases).

Annual plowing of fields reveals bare earth leading to soil erosion – little or a lot at a time. Over the past century, some researchers estimate that a third of the Midwest’s most fertile topsoil has disappeared.

Relying on a single crop also means that it only takes one weather event – ​​a drought, a late frost or a flood – to devastate a crop. In 2019, the Midwest experienced an extremely wet spring, preventing the planting of more than 7.9 million hectares (19.4 million acres) of corn. Given our changing climate, farmers who practice monoculture may therefore face more economic uncertainty as unforeseen weather patterns become the norm.

“Over the course of a year, crops can be severely affected by the environmental situation,” said Sarah Lovell, director of the University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry. “Whereas if we have a wider range of crops, they are often more resilient in these conditions.”

“In the upper Midwest, we have a water quality problem,” said Jason Fischbach, woody crop specialist at the University of Wisconsin Extension and co-leader of the Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative (UMHDI), adding that tillage and annual row crops are blamed. He said that with climate change, bigger storms are making it worse. “We have seen two 500-year-old floods in the past five years in our patch of forest. And further south, where the ground is more exposed, it only gets worse.

Bill Davison, director of the tree crop commercialization program at the Wisconsin agroforestry research nonprofit, the Savanna Institute, said if farmers could establish perennial vegetation, many environmental problems could be alleviated. Trees and shrubs reduce runoff and erosion, can promote less use of agrochemicals, and encourage water capture and storage, while filtering agrochemicals. Davison said replacing annual crops with nuts and fruit trees “requires a system that burns carbon, and is based on fossil fuel inputs, and replaces it with a more sustainable form of production.”

In fact, farms in the Midwest could be the perfect place to sequester carbon while making a profit. In a new book, It’s Not Too Late, Frances M. Lappe writes that gradually expanding alley cropping – where widely spaced rows of trees are planted with crops like corn in between – could eliminate many large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere: Reaching a target size of 20 million hectares (50 million acres) could remove 1.07 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide from the air.

While all of these benefits seem simple on paper, there’s still one important factor for farmers: how much will it cost? “That’s the challenge: it reduces soil and nutrient loss, but does it really help farmers’ bottom line?” Fischbach said. He noted that for farmers to fully embrace perennial planting, agroforestry solutions must be “productive conservation.”

Riparian agroforestry adds fruit or nut trees near water sources to improve water quality, wildlife and pollinator habitat, and increase sources of income. NAC / CC BY 2.0

Making Agroforestry Work in the Midwest

For farmers interested in moving away from monoculture, planning new agroforestry plantings can seem overwhelming, so researchers at the USDA’s National Agroforestry Center (NAC) are trying to provide information tailored to farmers’ needs. .

“It’s really practice and farmer specific,” said CNA environmental researcher Matt Smith, noting that farmers are trying to solve problems on their land with potential agroforestry solutions – and that’s not always a unique solution. any solution. “What one farmer is doing, his neighbor might be doing something completely different,” he said, adding that agroforestry solutions could be geared towards ecological or economic goals.

Agroforestry practices must provide specific solutions to be adopted. For example, on large monoculture farms, alley farming may not work. “[Farmers] have huge fields where they plant 24 rows at a time,” Lovell from Missouri said. “Jockey around trees just isn’t feasible for farmers.”

Instead, farmers could take a bolder approach and turn larger areas into perennial crops. Lovell explained that some “difficult” areas — small, oddly shaped fields, flood-prone areas or hillside fields — can be perfect for perennial crops. For example, for a field that is sloping and prone to flooding, she noted that crops such as pecans are well adapted to this type of environment. The change could be more profitable in the long term and have environmental benefits for the farmer.

“Replacing annual crops with perennial crops generally improves wildlife habitat quality and in many cases will lead to increased populations of species that depend on perennial cover,” Davison said. He added that by increasing the size of riparian buffers and windbreaks, wildlife will have more natural habitat. More diverse and robust wildlife also means more habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects in general. “It can lead to a more balanced system that has fewer pest and disease outbreaks,” Davison said, adding that it ultimately leads to lower production costs for farmers.

Gary Bentrup, a research landscape planner at CNA, said farmers are turning to agroforestry not only to solve problems on their land, but also to even out their labor demands. “You can have really peak times, especially if you only have one or two crops,” Bentrup said, adding that for a diversified farm, the demand for labor is spread throughout the year. .

Bentrup said agroforestry is of great interest to farmers. “[They] seek to integrate livestock, which can create a more closed-loop system with animals providing fertilizer and, in some cases, providing management services such as weed and pest control,” Bentrup said. “These systems can also improve livestock welfare, as well as shade [and] protection from the extreme weather events we see more frequently.”

Windbreaks between fields introduce perennial plants into a system, while adding protection against soil erosion and water capture and filtration. Farmers can plant trees or shrubs that produce fruit or nuts, or after a few decades they can harvest the trees for timber. NAC / CC BY 2.0

But some farmers are reluctant to adopt agroforestry practices. The transition to a diversified cropping system is a significant expense. “They have a significant investment in their current operation: investments in equipment, in the way their farm operation is laid out, in buildings and facilities,” said Rich Straight, a forester at NAC. There are big financial considerations when farmers move to another type of farm scale.

There is also a steep learning curve. “If a person spends half of their adult life farming in a particular way, it’s a big investment of time, learning, and finding resources,” Straight said. “There’s quite a bit of momentum in one direction. And change, as we all know, isn’t easy.”

Related to this is a social and emotional component of the transition to agroforestry that must be respected. “People say, ‘It breaks our hearts to plant trees because our parents and grandparents spent decades removing trees from the landscape,’ Straight said.

Changing farming techniques can not only cause family stress, but also community tension. “I’ve spoken to farmers who’ve gone organic here in Nebraska, and they’ve found that it’s caused a breakdown in relationships with other farmers in the area who they may have known. their whole lives,” Straight said. “People now perceive you as an outsider, or they think you’re judging them because you’ve changed to a new system.”

The CNA trio noted that educating lenders, farmers and communities can help tackle agroforestry. “The National Agroforestry Center always tries to consider barriers and we do that by talking to landowners and natural resource professionals,” Smith said, adding that they post potential solutions and the latest research on their site. website. There are also investors increasingly looking to help farmers make the transition to agroforestry.

The farmers who made the switch also formed an effective support system. “It’s a very supportive community of people looking to grow food and work the land in a different way,” Straight said. “It can be very encouraging that way [and] people seem to rally around each other and support, encourage and share information.”

Cultivation in alleys of hazelnuts, where the nuts grow between the rows of an annual crop. Savannah Institute

Is the answer nuts?

“For a long time, we just waved our finger at farmers and said you’re doing bad things – do something different,” Fischbach said, but added that proper solutions were murky. Thus, over the past two decades, the research community has focused on the feasibility of perennial crops, particularly in the Upper Midwest where Fischbach works. “I was driven to try to help revitalize the agricultural economy,” he said, adding that the short growing season and “shitty clay soils” make farming a challenge there. down.

So he and his team turned to native trees for an answer: enter the hazelnut. The team got interested in hazelnuts in part because they represent a market of nearly $5 billion a year, a significant number that is expected to grow.

Although the majority of them are grown in Turkey, some recent weather events are preventing the country from meeting demand. Currently, all hazelnuts grown in the United States come from orchards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, generating $100 million in annual revenue, so the Midwest may be well positioned to take advantage of a growing market.

There are two main varieties of hazelnuts: European and American. European nuts are larger and a popular snack there: “People eat them like we eat peanuts,” Fischbach said. American hazelnut is more of a shrub and produces smaller nuts, but the plants are prolific. “American hazelnut is widely distributed in the upper Midwest and indeed most of the eastern United States,” he said.

Nut size is not necessarily an issue, as American hazelnut can be used as an oilseed. “Walnuts are 60% oil by weight and the fatty acid profile is identical to olive oil,” Fischbach said, adding that it can be called “the olive oil of the north. “.

For the past 14 years, scientists have been working on breeding a hybrid of European and American varieties; they aim for a hardy shrub that can tolerate a variable climate, while producing larger nuts suitable for snacking. Fischbach said that although they have created a plant that grows well from seed, breeders are still trying to crack the code on propagating or cloning the most successful plants.

While hazelnuts may be the nut of the future for the Midwest (see the Savanna Institute report “What will it take to catalyze the Midwest’s hazelnut industry?” Here), they are not the only perennial plant that can help farmers diversify. Davison said that in some of the demonstration farms affiliated with them, farmers combine several perennial crops.

“A system that works for farmers would be chestnuts, Christmas trees, and blueberries,” Davison said. He explained that these crops need similar soil types and conditions, so they work well together. And at the end of the day, Davison said having three crops was “a really good economic scenario for farmers.”

“We’re kind of overlooking the huge potential of many native species in the Midwest,” Lovell said. There are many other native species – black walnut, pecan, elderberry, aronia, papaya, persimmon – that we have not fully incorporated into our food system.

“They’re often much tougher and adapted to more extreme weather conditions,” Lovell said. “Looking ahead, there’s just a lot of potential here.

Chestnuts can also grow well in alley cropping systems. Savannah Institute

Harvest Rows

When agroforestry is initially adopted, it is often for smaller efforts like windbreaks. These narrow strips are often fast-growing trees like poplar or pine that become profitable about 30 years later, but only for a one-time sale. If a farmer plants hazelnuts for this shelterbelt, however, Fischbach said they would create positive cash flow in just five or six years.

“That’s how we try to position hazelnuts,” Fischbach said. “We’re not trying to convince people to take the other 40 acres of corn and beans and put nuts on them; we want you to deploy these nuts in a way that improves your entire system.

Davison also noted this approach and said he sees signs of more and more people changing the way they farm. “When I speak to some nursery owners, for the first time in 40 years they have been inundated with orders for trees – more than they can possibly come across. It’s quite exciting.

Once the hazelnuts are ripe, the next questions are about harvesting and processing, and since farmers who only grow a few rows of hazelnuts might not want to invest in their own harvesting equipment, UMHDI created Grower Networks in 2019 to help farmers pool their resources for harvesting, processing and selling. Fischbach said early on, farmers in the Midwest picked hazelnuts by hand, but that quickly became untenable.

So they tried a blueberry picker, and Fischbach said they worked pretty well, especially since they were “built to handle soft, squishy, ​​thin little blueberries.” He said they were still tinkering with the machine for greater efficiency. And because the Midwest is new to the nut industry, with no processing plants operating nearby, UMHDI established a processing incubator in Ashland, Wis., so growers can now ship to this regional plant for crack and separate hazelnut kernels from their shells, to avoid big shipping costs for processing in the Northwest.

Savanna Institute researchers use their hazelnut harvester on a Wisconsin farm. Savannah Institute

The future of farms?

Shedding the image of a corn and soybean farm may seem like a stretch, but Lovell said the Midwest has the potential to grow a lot more. “There are so many things we can produce in this landscape that would just be a win-win-win in terms of environmental health, human health, [and] other cultural aspects,” she said.

Increasing perennial crops and reducing monoculture has significant ecosystem benefits, she added, such as this potential gigatonne of carbon sequestration. “All of that plant material that you see above ground, and often [in] equal amounts below ground, is carbon that’s being stored.”

“It’s such an exciting time in agriculture,” Fischbach said. “We really have new tools, new energies, new young people working hard to develop new systems.” He added that while farmers are willing to try new agroforestry crops like hazelnuts, they still depend on Midwestern markets and companies like the American Hazelnut Company, a small operation that processes and sells hazelnut products grown in the Midwest such as oil, hazelnut flour and snacks. seeds.

“At the end of the day, for all of this to work, we need consumers in the Midwest to eat hazelnuts,” he said, adding that convincing people to buy the little nut isn’t too difficult.” because she tastes good.”

Midwesterners can therefore be on the lookout for this tasty product that supports farmers in the region. And if the nuts take off, one day a locally grown imitation Nutella might even be a staple.

This report is part of Mongabay’s ongoing coverage of global agroforestry trends. See the full series here.

Republished with permission from Mongabay.

Is gambling bad for the environment?

And while the game offers respite from thinking about both personal and global condemnations, it threatens to bring at least one of them – a climate catastrophe – closer to reality. With the plastic casing, mined metal circuit boards, energy consumed and electronic waste, gaming has been an environmentally unfriendly industry for decades.

Are digital games better for the environment?

The study found that for games under 8.8 GB in size, digital purchases were the greenest option, but for larger games, the download size (and increased consumption energy as a result) made buying retail the best option.

Why is cloud gaming bad?

Between the energy needed to power those servers and to deliver the content to your screen, cloud gaming can increase the overall power consumption of gaming. This means that if cloud gaming takes off, the carbon footprint of the gaming could also increase – unless companies take notice and green their data centers.

Is the Xbox eco-friendly?

We design our devices, from Surface to Xbox, with an emphasis on environmentally friendly materials. Our cloud and AI services help companies reduce their energy consumption, reduce their physical footprint and design sustainable products themselves.

Do video games cause global warming?

For starters, the mass production of boxed video games – the ones that come on CD or DVD and that you load into your computer or console – generate tons and tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas Greenhouse.

Do solar panels reduce the carbon footprint?

By switching to solar power, you can reduce the demand for fossil fuels, limit greenhouse gas emissions and reduce your carbon footprint. …Choosing a clean source of electricity like solar panels can eliminate the same amount of carbon emissions that would result from burning over 5,000 pounds of coal each year.

Why are video games so important?

increase children’s self-confidence and self-esteem when they master the games. provide points of common interest and opportunities for socialization. develop reading, math, technology and problem-solving skills.

How do video games affect the environment?

Once installed via disc or download, a game’s impact on the environment is largely a result of power consumption. In other words, the more time gamers spend with their consoles on and plugged in, the more power plants that emit CO2 consume energy. … All of this adds to the carbon footprint of video games.

How can I get into video games?

How to Get Started in Game Development: 10 Proven Ways to Get Started in the Gaming Industry

  • Post your work on discussion forums. …

  • Create a gaming blog. …

  • Create your own indie games. …

  • Get an entry-level job as a game tester. …

  • Get an internship at a video game studio. …

  • Get a college degree related to video games. …

  • Earn a traditional college degree.

Is the Nintendo Switch Eco-Friendly?

A study suggests that Nintendo Switch is the greenest console on the market. According to a new survey from NerdWallet, the Switch has been declared the greenest system in the current generation of consoles.

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