Does Air Quality Matter for Greenhouse Farming?
Alternate agriculture methods can be very beneficial for farmers, but they often come with unique challenges. Growing crops indoors shelters them from many things, but not all. Does air quality matter for greenhouse farming?
What Is Greenhouse Farming?
Greenhouse farming is a type of agriculture that uses transparent buildings to grow crops year-round. While a traditional structure has a metal frame with glass panels, farmers can use plastic tarps or bags instead.
For example, greenhouse farming is picking up popularity in Uganda because it’s more profitable and manageable than the traditional style. Farmers in Somalia are also switching to greenhouse farming because it requires fewer resources and lets them control more variables. For example, they can change the temperature and humidity to optimize water usage. It also requires much less land to get started, which makes it much more accessible to smaller operations.
Because drought and heat are significant challenges in African agriculture, greenhouse farming presents a better alternative. However, farmers must understand how to efficiently manage their crops inside as it becomes a widespread agricultural method. It’s a unique approach to farming, so it may present them with challenges they haven’t encountered before.
How Does Air Quality Affect Crops?
Even though keeping crops inside can protect them from many influences, they still come into contact with many pollutants in the air. In fact, air quality is lower indoors than it is outdoors. This is because external contaminants can get in and mix with whatever’s already inside. They are likely more affected in the greenhouse than in traditional locations.
Pollutants can significantly affect human health, so it shouldn’t be surprising that they can also negatively impact crops. For example, nitrogen oxides damage plant cells and can stunt growth. Different types have different effects. They can cause lower yields, wilting or even death.
Biotic and abiotic contaminants are likely the most harmful to plants out of all other pollutants. They consist of biological and non-biological factors, including pollen, pathogens, smoke and gas. On top of that, having too much of a good thing can also result in poor performance. Monitoring indoor air quality is essential. Unbalanced levels can damage crops and produce.
Does Outdoor Air Pollution Matter?
Greenhouses essentially filter air pollution because plants process various pollutants, but they typically can’t handle severe amounts. If the outside contaminant levels are too high, they’ll show signs of damage. Some locations have more impurities than others, so farmers in certain areas may be at a disadvantage when attempting greenhouse farming.
Indoor farming can potentially solve drought and heat challenges in Africa and the Middle East. Arguably, they stand to benefit the most when using greenhouses, but their poor air quality puts them at a disadvantage. They must reduce pollutants to ensure plant health and crop yields.
How Contaminated Is the Air?
Fossil fuel use, rapid urbanization, dust and transportation are leading causes of air pollution. Urban areas in Africa grow up to 3.8 percent every year on average, one of the fastest rates in the world. As cities and industries continue to expand, contaminant levels will increase.
Severe air pollution affects the entirety of Africa, with several countries having the highest levels worldwide. Human intervention and its unique geography essentially create the perfect storm. Luckily, many of the contributing factors are within control.
The Middle East also experiences incredibly high amounts of pollutants. Its geographical nature means it has large concentrations of dust and small debris. These particles are small enough to get inside greenhouses, making them troublesome for farmers.
How Can Farmers Improve Air Quality?
Although improving the general air quality of Africa and the Middle East would be ideal, it would require extensive planning and collective efforts. Most importantly, it would take time. Because communities rely on farmers for food security, they should focus on improving their greenhouses to the best of their abilities.
The two main ways to improve indoor air quality are filtration and ventilation. These processes remove harmful substances, allowing plants to thrive again. Farmers have many options to implement either of these solutions. For example, tools measuring carbon dioxide display if a structure is ventilated or needs attention. Minor changes can go a long way to ensure crop health and high yields.
Improving Greenhouse Air Quality
The quality of indoor air is crucial because it potentially affects yields. Too many contaminants or unbalanced gas levels can damage crops. While Africa and the Middle East experience high levels of air pollution, greenhouse farmers can use ventilation or filtration to keep their plants growing.