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For many of us, the word 'agriculture' evokes bucolic images of lush fields of grain and pastures populated by peacefully grazing cows. In this light, the notion of "greening agriculture'' seems almost oxymoronic; could anything be greener than this?
Well, maybe not in terms of color, but in terms of environmental impact, agriculture has a sizable footprint. In many countries, including large areas of the high-income countries, those lush fields of grain used to be forests. And the fertilizer that keeps those fields so green is mostly nitrogen based, generating nitrous oxide, which – kilo per kilo – has an impact on global warming several hundred times that of carbon dioxide. And those cows – how to put this delicately? – have greenhouse gases coming out of both ends! (Methane emitted by livestock is over 20 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide.) And (surprise!) crops and livestock need water –lots of it. Agriculture accounts for around 70 percent of water use worldwide.