Almost every conversation surrounding the agricultural industry has the term “sustainable agriculture” in it. This is because it concerns everyone, from the farmers to the middle men and the consumers. However, there are five things you should know which will help you understand why people are having conversations on this topic:
What Sustainable Agriculture Means
Sustainable agriculture can be defined in many ways but one common denominator in all its definition is carrying out agricultural practices which provide long term crops and livestock and has as little negative effect on the environment as possible.
The concept tries to understand the relationship between organisms and their environment and find a balance between the need for food production and the preservation of the environment. Its key focus are – a healthy environment, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. The practice also supports less use of chemicals, energy and water conservation, biodiversity and ecology, as well as local food production
Why We Need Sustainable Agriculture
There are 7 billion people in the world, and that gives us 7 billion reasons why we need sustainable agriculture. Aside from the fact that sustainable agriculture seeks to provide food for everyone, here are some other reasons why we need to consciously practice sustainable agriculture:
- To Conserve Energy:
When agricultural products are moved from one point to another by any means of transport, energy is used. One of the main focuses of sustainable agriculture is to grow and sell agricultural products locally, thus reducing the need for transportation.
Other activities which require energy in their production are fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides.The agricultural industry relies heavily on fossil fuels for producing fertilizers, packaging, and others. Sustainable agricultural practices seek to reduce the dependence of the industry on unsustainable energy sources which could be damaging to the natural environment.
Sustainable agriculture adapts methods which makes soil healthier and protects other natural resources such as air and water. Conserving these resources are necessary for future food production. It also embraces farming practices which require less energy and thus, eliminates the need for fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions which are produced by the agricultural sector.
- To Promote Biodiversity:
Sustainable agriculture seeks to understand the relationship between organisms and their environments to make for better food production. This could lead to a healthier ecosystem and create a balance. It also encourages diverse farming systems which includes incorporating variety of crops.
- To Produce Healthy Food:
Crops grown using sustainable agriculture do not contain residues of harmful chemicals and pesticides, thus they’re considered healthier. These healthy crops are used to feed livestock, which ultimately leads to nutritious food for people.
- To Reduce Pollution:
Sometimes chemicals in pesticides and fertilizers wash away and become land and water pollutants, causing harm and ruining the environment. Adopting sustainable agricultural practices can help reduce pollution with its use of organic methods of fertilizers and pest control.
Sustainable Agriculture Practices
- Crop Rotation:
When crops are planted, they use up the soil nutrients. One of the ways to replace those nutrients is through crop rotation. This involved planting a particular crop to replace the nutrients a previous crop used up.
For instance, planting a heavy nitrogen depositing plant such as soyabeans after a heavy nitrogen using plant such as corn, can help maintain the nutrients in the soil. Crop rotation helps keep the soil healthy and conserve the nutrients in it as well as prevent diseases and allow the soil to fallow after planting, which is good for the health of the soil.
- Urban Agriculture:
We need to start growing food closer to home and there’s no better way to do that than through urban agriculture. So many people already live in the cities and to bridge that gap between where food is produced and where it’s mostly consumed, urban agriculture comes to play. We can grow our own farms in backyards, gardens, and rooftop gardens.
- Rotational Grazing:
When livestock grazes on a particular field, without allowing that land to fallow and regain its nutrients, it becomes dangerous. Rotational grazing is similar to crop rotation but it applies to livestock. The livestock grazes on different fields and is exposed to nutrients. The land also fallows and regains its nutrients.
The excreta of those animals can also serve as manure for the soil and fosters the growth of plants. Also, when overgrazing occurs, the soil is exposed and trampled upon, which can easily be eroded but rotational grazing helps reduce this.
- Water Management:
Water management is a big issue in agriculture. Irrigation systems that are planned will help in channel water where it is needed. Luckily, technological advancements have made it possible to apply precision to agriculture and help conserve resources such as water. For instance, agricultural drones can be used to track plants and spray the exact amount of water needed for growth.
- Natural Pest Management:
Overuse of pesticides could result in environmental damage. Sustainable agriculture entails using biological and mechanical pest control methods to eliminate pests. For instance, some insects such as birds and bats can serve as predators of beetles and weeds.
Some countries are already adapting this method. For instance, in Japan, farmers are using ducks instead of pesticides to control weeds in their rice farms. The ducks are specially trained. The farmers release the ducks into the paddy fields and the ducks eat insects, weeds, and even the weed’s seeds. They eat everything except the rice.
Planting trees around the farm can attract birds, who will not only nest there but feed on the insects and control pest.
What Happens if There’s No Sustainable Agriculture?
Based on the reasons why we need sustainable agriculture, it is easy to see all the things that could go wrong if we don’t adapt it. The practice gives balance to the environmental, social, and economic needs of agriculture, and to the society at large.
Sustainable agriculture reduces the release of toxic chemicals into the environment and encourages the growth of nutritional food for humans. It also encourages practices which will ensure sufficient supply of food.
How You Can Contribute to Sustainable Agriculture
- Creating Awareness: Farmers need to understand the implications of their farming practices. Some farmers practice harmful farming activities. These activities could be detrimental to the environment in the long run. With your knowledge of sustainable agriculture, you can spread the word.
- By Providing Appropriate Technology: There are tools which can help reduce the use of harmful practices. For instance, proper irrigation systems which supply plants with the exact amount of water they need can help reduce water wastage. The right planting and harvesting technology can also prevent wastage.
- Purchase Locally: When we buy and sell locally, it helps. Food sold locally requires less packaging, and less fuel in transport, It also keeps the food in the economy, and takes less time to move from farm to consumption than other foods, it fosters good community relationships.
What are your thoughts on sustainable agriculture? Let us know in the comment section below.