The Relationship Between Carbon Levels and Agriculture

Only about .04% of the air we breathe is made up of carbon dioxide, yet it plays a critical role in our world. Unlike nitrogen and oxygen, carbon dioxide (CO2) absorbs heat. This creates a natural greenhouse effect as the carbon dioxide traps the sun’s rays and helps heat our planet. Without it, our world would be 59 degrees colder and plant life would be largely impossible. 

That’s not the only way plants benefit from CO2They also use it as an energy source. In turn, plants help store carbon and release the precious oxygen that we breathe.  

However, as forests and native vegetation have been cleared due to urban expansion, resource harvesting, infrastructure development, and modern farming practices, fewer plants are available to absorb, store, and process carbon. This has resulted in more carbon remaining in the air, which results in the planet staying warmer than usual. 

While that might not seem so bad, it’s important to remember that the world is a delicately balanced system. Just one degree of difference can affect seasons, migration patterns, water levels, and more. All of these changes can have a direct impact on farmers in a number of ways. 

How Increased CO2 Impacts Agriculture 

As with the rest of earth’s plants, crops rely heavily on CO2. It boosts crop yields by increasing the rate of photosynthesis. Not only does this promote growth, but it reduces the amount of water crops lose during the process, increasing overall water efficiency. On the other hand, higher temperatures and drier weather stemming from increased carbon dioxide can cause significant declines in crop yields over time. 

Some crops and regions fare better than others in terms of overall impact. Wheat and soybeans generally benefit from increased CO2, at least initially. Corn and other crops, however, are likely to quickly experience the negative side effects. Similarly, northern regions may benefit from longer growing seasons that come with increased CO2, while southern farmers suffer from higher temperatures, inconsistent precipitation, and dryer growing conditions. This causes an increased reliance on irrigation, which presents an issue in itself. Water shortages are currently growing across the USWith agriculture already using 80% of our nation’s water, many in the industry are already looking to decrease water usage as much as possible. 

Increased temperatures and unseasonal weather has a consistently negative impact on our pollinators, which can significantly hurt crop yields and health.  

In order to effectively combat rising CO2 levels, carbon emissions need to be reduced, and excess carbon need to be sequestered. In the coming weeks, we’ll discuss the emerging opportunities farmers and landowners have to sequester carbon, reduce emissions, and engage in the developing carbon market. It is possible to fight rising CO2 levels while earning a profit on your land.

One of the ways to do this is through the Conservation Reserve Program. You can learn more about sequestering carbon through CRP here. If you’d like to enroll land in CRP, FDCE can help. We offer full-service CRP solutions that include buying CRP seedplanting, herbicide application, documentation, and report submission for cost-share reimbursement.  

Together, we can help keep our planet in balance and restore health and prosperity to your farmland.