We all are used to agriculture which we were introduced to when we were younger and have probably practiced but in the age of sustainability, which is the provision of the need of the present without hampering the chances of the future to meet their own needs.
So, what can we say is sustainable agriculture and the effective practices of sustainable agriculture?
Before jumping into that, we are familiar with the aim of agriculture which not only provides food and animals for human consumption but also, improves the quality of living of the community opening them up to businesses and even investors in the area.
Agriculture brought about early civilization as men began to be creative in applying agricultural produce in various aspects of living.
If agriculture has got this remarkable record, then it has got to be sustainable, especially in our era of climate change and sustainability.
This brings us to the term – Sustainable Agriculture.
Several aspects of a well-managed system where forages are fed to cattle help to create sustainability.
Low levels of tillage and minimal outside input are indicators of sustainable agriculture. Systems using forage-livestock frequently include both of these elements.
Maintaining forages in pastures involves far less topsoil disturbance than agricultural systems where crops are planted and harvested in a single growing season.
The sustainability of soil as a resource can be considerably increased as a result of the generally reduced rates of soil erosion that arise from this.
Additionally, the long-term management of forages in pastures improves the accumulation of humus and organic matter in the soil, both of which support soil fertility.
Often used as forages in pastures, legumes are plants that can draw nitrogen from the air and add it to the soil.
Legumes offer a nitrogen input to the system that can make up for nitrogen lost from the consumption of dairy and meat from animals.
Legumes are thus added to the system to help it become more sustainable.
What is Sustainable Agriculture?
Although there are various ways to describe it, sustainable agriculture ultimately aims to preserve farmers, resources, and communities by supporting farming techniques and practices that are successful, environmentally friendly, and beneficial to communities.
To satisfy society’s current food and textile demands, sustainable agriculture must be practiced. This is done without sacrificing the ability of future generations to satisfy their own needs.
Specifically, sustainable agriculture aims to accomplish three key goals according to Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education:
- maintaining the environment
- financial viability
- Aiming to improve the standard of living for farmers, farm families, and farm communities
Healthy food production and consumption are made possible by sustainable agriculture, which preserves the potential of future generations to do the same.
Finding the ideal balance between the requirement for food production and the protection of environmental ecosystems is essential for sustainable agriculture.
Additionally, sustainable farming helps farms maintain financial stability and enhances the quality of life for farmers.
With 40% of the world’s population employed in agriculture, it continues to be the largest employer in the world.
Sustainable agriculture is one that, over the long term, improves the environmental quality and the resource base on which agriculture depends, meets the basic needs of people for food and fiber, is economically viable, and improves the quality of life for farmers and society at large, according to the American Society of Agronomy.
Beyond the Congressional description, sustainable agriculture has been described in a variety of ways, such as a system that can sustain itself endlessly without harming the environment, the people, or the ecosystem itself.
It reflects our concern for agriculture’s long-term viability.
Sustainable agriculture complements and fits into modern agriculture.
It rewards producers and their goods for their genuine values. It is inspired by organic farming and learns from it.
It is effective on both large and small farms and ranches, utilizing new technologies and reviving time-honored best practices.
Sustainable agriculture denotes an agricultural system that will last a long time, or continue to function over that time.
Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
Agriculture was the foundation of civilization, and even though humanity has changed tremendously, agriculture is still of utmost importance.
Its significance may be more apparent in some nations, but in actuality, agriculture plays a significant role in every nation on earth. Ten reasons why agriculture is significant are listed below:
- Supports Environmental Protection
- Saves Energy for Future
- Security of public health
- Minimizes Pollution
- Inhibits air pollution
- Inhibits Soil Erosion
- Reduction in Cost
- Sustainable Livestock Management
- Beneficial for Animals
- Farmers Can Benefit Economically
- Social Justice
- Environmentally Friendly
1. Supports Environmental Protection
The environment greatly contributes to meeting our fundamental necessities for maintaining life. In turn, it is our responsibility to protect the environment so that present-day demands are not denied to future generations.
Natural resources including water and air, and land, are replenished through sustainable agriculture.
Farmers who apply sustainable practices will use less chemical input, less nonrenewable energy, and conserve limited resources.
Given the growing population and increased need for food, this replenishment assures that these natural resources will be able to support life for future generations.
2. Saves Energy for Future
Petroleum in particular is a major source of nonrenewable energy for modern agriculture.
Insofar as it is economically practical, sustainable farming systems have decreased the need for fossil fuels or nonrenewable energy sources and replaced them with renewable resources or labor.
Pesticides and fertilizers that are harmful are avoided in sustainable agriculture. Farmers can grow fruits, vegetables, and other crops that are safer for customers, employees, and local communities as a result.
Sustainable farmers can prevent human exposure to infections, poisons, and other dangerous substances by managing livestock waste carefully and correctly.
4. Minimizes Pollution
Sustainable agriculture entails that all waste generated on a farm is absorbed by its ecosystem. Waste cannot produce pollution in this way.
Smoke from agricultural burning during agricultural activity affects air quality; Dust from tillage, transportation, and harvesting; pesticide drift from spraying; and nitrous oxide emissions from the usage of nitrogen fertilizer are other familiar sources of air pollution.
By mixing crop residue into the soil, using the proper amount of tillage, and planting windbreaks, cover crops, or strips of native perennial grasses to prevent dust, sustainable agriculture has choices to enhance air quality.
Soil erosion has been seriously hampered by our ability to produce enough food consistently.
As a result, many techniques have been created to maintain soil, such as minimizing or eliminating tillage, controlling irrigation to minimize runoff, and keeping the soil covered with plants or mulch.
The biological and financial stability of the farm is improved by cultural practices, which also increase crop output and crop diversification (including livestock) through the selection of suitable species and types that are well suited to the site and conditions on the farm.
7. Reduction in Cost
Costs associated with farming are reduced overall by sustainable agriculture. Everyone involved in the agriculture business has benefited from more efficient farming techniques and methods of transporting food from the farm to the table.
Surprises become facts thanks to IoT data from sensors from seed drills, sprayers, and spreaders to drones, satellite photos, and soil.
Biodiversity is produced by sustainable farms because they generate a diverse range of plants and animals. Plants are rotated seasonally during crop rotation, which improves the soil and prevents disease and insect outbreaks.
9. Sustainable Livestock Management
Sustainable livestock production is a component of sustainable agriculture and involves the long-term growth of livestock overall through the selection of appropriate animal species, animal nutrition, reproduction, herd health, and grazing management.
10. Beneficial for Animals
Animals are handled more humanely and with respect as a result of sustainable agriculture. All living creatures’ natural habits, such as grazing and pecking, are accommodated.
They consequently grow naturally. Sustainable ranchers and farmers employ livestock management techniques that safeguard the welfare of their livestock.
11. Farmers Can Benefit Economically
Farmers are paid fairly for their produce in return for using sustainable farming practices. This strengthens rural communities and substantially lowers their dependency on government aid.
While producing 10 times more profit than factory farms, organic farms often use two and a half times as much work.
12. Social Justice
The use of sustainable agricultural methods also helps the workforce, who are given more competitive pay and benefits.
In addition, they are subjected to humane and equitable working conditions, which include a healthy diet, a secure working environment, and decent housing.
13. Environmentally Friendly
The environment gains from sustainable agriculture because it minimizes the need for nonrenewable energy sources.
To satisfy the expected 9.6 billion people on the planet with the recommended daily calorie intake, it is predicted that by the year 2050, we would need almost 70% more food than is currently produced.
This is by no means a simple task, but in contrast to many other sustainability difficulties, anybody can contribute.
We can all contribute to a more sustainable future by simply reducing food loss and waste, adopting diets with lower environmental impact, and spending money on sustainable produce.
All of us, from nations to businesses to individual customers, have a part to play. Making people care in a world where there is so much abundance is the challenge.
Effective Practices of Sustainable Agriculture
Sustainability advocates replace harsh pesticides with natural enemies, nitrogen-fixing plants with fertilizers, and other strategies that are detailed below.
1. Crop Rotation
Source: Top Producers Know Crop Rotation & Intercropping (DTN)
One of the most effective methods of sustainable agriculture is crop rotation. Its goal is to prevent the negative effects associated with repeatedly growing the same crops in the same soil.
Crop rotation is the practice of planting various crop varieties in a predetermined order. It ensures crop diversity in sustainable agriculture and is a more logical method of farming than monoculture.
How does crop rotation support environmentally friendly farming? Crop rotation techniques support ecological and soil sustainability.
Crop rotation in particular,
- reduces compaction due to various root systems;
- supplies nitrogen to plants that fix nitrogen biologically for sustainable agriculture;
- Since some pest species target their host crop kinds, this aids in pest control.
- It also minimizes soil depletion,
- mitigates farming hazards, avoids the use of unnecessary chemicals,
- provides organic matter, and stimulates the activity of the soil biota.
A food production system using permaculture reduces resource waste and increases production efficiency through design, planning, and smart farming.
Growing grain without plowing, spiraling plants and herbs, hugelkultur garden beds, keyhole and mandala gardens, sheet mulching, plants that serve many uses, and making swales on contour to keep the water high in the landscape are all examples of permaculture design techniques.
It focuses on using perennial plants including fruit trees, nut trees, and bushes in a system that is supposed to replicate how plants in a natural ecosystem would behave.
3. Cover Crops
Farmers prevent soil erosion on their farms by planting cover crops outside of the growing season.
When cover crops are employed as green manure, the practice also aids in increasing the organic matter, lowering fertilizer costs.
In addition, cover crops control weeds and preserve soil moisture. Bee and other pollinator populations are naturally supported by flowering cover crops.
4. Soil Enrichment
Source: Dirty Secrets: 9 Ways to Improve Garden Soil (Gardenista)
The foundation of agricultural ecosystems is the soil. Pesticide use too frequently can often harm the life that is present in healthy soil.
Both yields and the strength of a crop can be improved by having healthy soil.
There are numerous techniques to preserve and improve soil quality. Examples include using composted plant waste or animal manure, as well as leaving crop leftovers in the field after a harvest.
5. Natural Predators of Pests
It’s crucial to consider the farm as an ecosystem rather than a factory if you want to keep pests under control.
For instance, many birds and other animals are in fact pests that affect agriculture.
It’s a difficult strategy, but managing your farm to support populations of these pest predators is beneficial.
Chemical pesticide use has the potential to cause the indiscriminate death of pest predators.
6. Irrigation Methods
Source: Irrigation Systems: Types And Their Benefits (Farmsquare)
Irrigation is a crucial component of crop cultivation that uses a lot of energy and water. Sustainable development attempts to fulfill plant hydration requirements while maximizing water and energy use.
Smart irrigation practices and the cultivation of less water-intensive crop species are two ways to ensure sustainable water use in agriculture.
Particularly, drip irrigation uses 20–40% less water than furrow (flood) irrigation while producing 20–50% more crops.
7. Little to no-tillage
Source: No-till agriculture (Natural Water Retention Measures)
Contrary to routine plowing used in conventional farming, reduced or no-till techniques stop soil erosion brought on by wind and water.
The no-tilling method advises planting directly into crop residue to cause the least amount of soil and biota disturbance.
No-till farming decreases soil compaction, reduces operation time and fossil emissions, and promotes ecological and economic stability by incorporating seeds right away after digging.
8. Integrated Weed Management
Source: Integrated Weed Management (Duraroot)
Through the avoidance of pesticides and the adoption of environmentally friendly approaches, sustainable weed management solutions seek to protect natural resources.
These call for the use of resistant crop varieties cover crops, weed-eating insects and birds, mechanical and human weeding, allelopathic plants, crop rotation, and other organic agricultural control methods.
9. Bio-intensive Integrated Pest Management
Integrated pest management: good intentions, hard realities. A review (ResearchGate)
The approach is known as integrated pest management (IPM) mostly uses biological techniques as opposed to chemical ones. Crop rotation is important for managing pests, according to IMP.
IPM will ensure that chemical remedies are only utilized as a last resort once a pest problem has been discovered. Instead, sterile men and controlling organisms like ladybugs would be the proper solutions.
10. Polyculture Farming
This method is comparable to crop rotation, which seeks to imitate natural principles for the highest yields. In one location, several crop species are grown.
These species frequently work well together, producing a wider range of goods on a single plot and making the best use of the available resources.
High biodiversity strengthens the system’s resistance to weather changes, encourages a healthy diet, and uses built-in mechanisms to preserve soil fertility.
Source: Agroforestry and the Basic Payment Scheme (GOV.UK)
In dry areas with soils vulnerable to desertification, agroforestry has emerged as one of the most effective tools for farmers.
When addressed sustainably, it entails the development of trees and shrubs alongside agricultural and grazing land for long-lasting, fruitful, and diverse land use.
Biodynamic practices can be applied to farms that grow a variety of produce, gardens, vineyards, and other forms of agriculture.
Another crucial function of trees is to maintain a comfortable temperature, stabilize soils and soil humidity, reduce nutrient runoff, and shield crops from strong winds or heavy rain.
In this farming method, trees provide farmers with extra income sources and opportunities for product diversification.
12. Biodynamic Farming
Based on the “anthroposophical” idea, biodynamic farming integrates ecological and holistic growth approaches.
It focuses on putting principles into effects, such as composting, applying animal manure from farm animals, rotating complementing crops, or using cover crops, to create the soil fertility and health required for food production.
Gardens, vineyards, farms that cultivate a variety of crops, and other types of agriculture can all use biodynamic techniques.
13. Better Water Management
The right crops must be chosen as the first step in water management. It is chosen to grow local crops that are better suited to the local climate. For dry areas, it is necessary to select crops that do not require a lot of water.
Irrigation systems need to be carefully planned; else, problems like river depletion, dry land, and soil degradation may arise.
When drought conditions are present, rainfall harvesting technologies that store rainwater can be utilized. In addition, recycled municipal wastewater can be used for irrigation.
Because it makes use of the land, lessens pollution, ensures a steady supply of food, and supports local communities, the effective practices of sustainable agriculture are advantageous.
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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.