Crop Protection and Climate Change

All activities have the potential to impact on the environment. Agriculture and crop protection are no exception, and all farming systems, whether they are ‘conventional’ or organic, will have an impact.

It is estimated that globally, the agricultural sector accounts for around 14% of total greenhouse gas emissions. In the UK, Defra reported in 2008 that less than 7% of agricultural emissions come from crop protection products. This compares with a contribution from the use of fertilisers and electricity in agriculture of 26% and 19% respectively. However, this relatively small amount of carbon emitted in the production of crop protection products could be seen as a form of ‘carbon investment’ with healthier crops photosynthesising more, trapping more CO2 and producing more food and other useful products.

Cranfield University study into the contribution of crop protection to greenhouse gas emissions concluded that for one kilo of CO2 equivalent invested in the manufacture and use of pesticides, at least 10kg of CO2 is removed from the atmosphere as a result of yield increases attributed to that pesticide use.

A further benefit of crop protection is that it enables as little land as possible to be used to produce the food we need. This is hugely important from a climate perspective as bringing new land into agricultural production produces large quantities of greenhouse gases such as CO2 and nitrous oxide, and allows more land to be available for environmental and amenity use.

Pie chart