It’s estimated that the world population will grow to almost 10 billion by 2050, and as such, there will be a greater strain on the food system. This is why sustainable agriculture is becoming increasingly important to reduce climate change and promote food security in the long run.
Ironically, while agriculture is one of the primary industries sustaining human life, it's also a leading industry that puts a strain on the environment. From livestock farming to soil tilling, many factors in the agri-food sector contribute to the rise in greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate change leads to unfavourable farming conditions which jeopardize the efforts to feed a growing population. And while the effects of climate change span the globe, the communities feeling the effects most are often lower-income communities. These communities are often the lowest contributors to climate change.
In 2015, all the United Nations Member States adopted The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — this included 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's) to help transform and encourage action in areas of concern impacting both people and the planet.
Various researchers at U of G are studying this food-climate change intersection and are actively working to promote sustainable agriculture for a more food secure future.
Dr. Claudia Wagner-Riddle
In 2019, School of Environmental Science professor, Dr. Claudia Wagner-Riddle’s “Climate-smart soils” project was awarded $1.65 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. This project aims to optimize and preserve soil health and to further enhance food production. Most of the world’s food is produced on soils, and with the rising population, sustainable farming methods are becoming more critical. The Climate-Smart Soils program encourages widespread knowledge of soil health for students interested in pursuing a career related to environmental conservation and sustainable agriculture. The funding for this project has allowed a consortium of professors at the University of Guelph to offer courses related to soil ecosystems, sustainable agriculture and climate-smart soil practices.
A University of Guelph Dairy expert Dr. Christine Baes is well known for her research to reduce methane gas production in dairy cattle through a genome selection project. Cows release methane into the atmosphere through burping, and while it’s a natural process, some cows are naturally less gassy. Baes’ research focuses primarily on selectively breeding cattle that normally produce lower methane.
The Muck Crops Research station is located in the Holland Marsh area and is rich in loose organic soil, known as muck, that remains after draining swamp or marshland. The loose nature of the soil allows for greater growth. Various professors at the research station focus their studies on optimizing awareness about sustainable agriculture, with an added focus on crop protection.