Our world population is continuously and rapidly growing and by 2050, it is projected to reach 9.7 billion people. This obviously implies that there must be an increase in food production by around 70% or more in order to meet the demand of such an enormous population. Consequently, it is becoming more plausible that earnest improvements are needed in the agricultural sector to guarantee that our food system is ready to engage the hurdles of a burgeoning world population. There is a strong need to substitute our agriculture from the conservative industrial food system, that has characterized food production for a long period of time, to sustainable farming. But what is sustainable agriculture? Read on to find out more about it!
Agriculture has shifted dramatically through time. We’ve produced the majority of our food through industrial agriculture. It is a system ruled by large farms producing the same crops every year. Food productivity rose due to modern technologies, mechanization, enhanced chemical use, specialization, and government policies that promoted maximizing production. These changes left fewer farmers with lessened labor demands to provide the majority of the food and fiber. These developments may have positive effects and decreased a lot of farming risks, but there have also been notable losses. Some of the negating outcomes include:
- Topsoil depletion
- Groundwater contamination
- The decline of family farms
- Continued neglect of the living and working conditions for farm laborers
- Increasing costs of production
- The disintegration of economic and social conditions in rural communities
However, an increasing fraction of innovative farmers and scientists are taking an unconventional route by developing a farming system that is more environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable.
This farming method can be practiced by every farm regardless of its size, producing an assortment of foods, fibers, and fuels accustomed to local conditions and regional markets. It uses trailblazing, science-based systems that bump up productivity and profit while reducing environmental damages.
Sustainability, in agriculture, is a pretty intricate layout with many aspects such as economic, social, and environmental. A sustainable farm should be a lucrative business that can contribute to a strong economy. It should deal equitably with its workers and have a respectively beneficial alliance with the neighboring community. Environmental sustainability in agriculture implies excellent management of the natural systems and resources that farms rely on. This entails building and sustaining healthy soil, managing water wisely, reducing water and air pollution, and encouraging biodiversity. Overall, these practices comprise agroecology –the science of managing farms as ecosystems.
Is sustainable the same as organic?
No. Organic and sustainable aren’t the same because contemporary organic measures leave room for some practices that are not optimally sustainable. Also, not all farmers who adopt sustainable practices fit for USDA certification for organic status or prefer to try it. However, certified organic fruits and vegetables are more likely to have been produced more sustainably than conventionally grown produce. So while choosing organic produce at your grocery store may not necessarily mean that it was grown sustainably, there’s a better chance that it was compared to non-organic produce.
How do farming methods improve on being more sustainable? Here are some examples of sustainable agricultural practices.
Rotating crops and planting a variety of crops.
This practice helps produce healthier soil and enhances pests control. Intercropping –growing a mix of crops and complex –multi-year crop rotations are two of the common crop procedures.
Planting cover crops during an off-season time, when soils might otherwise be left exposed, is an efficient method to build and protect soil health. This activity inhibits erosion, replenishes the soil nutrients, and restricts weed growth.
Another way for agriculture to be more sustainable is to decrease tilling by implanting seeds directly into undisturbed soil. This practice reduces erosion and improves soil health. Traditional plowing can cause a lot of soil loss.
Next, is by applying Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This process includes mechanical and biological controls to keep the pest population at bay while minimizing the use of pesticides that add to the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.
Finally, adopting agroforestry practices and adding trees and shrubs to their farm operation. This will give shade and shelter to protect plants, animals, and water sources.
These are all the ways that agriculture can become a more sustainable practice. Let us support policies that will make sustainable farming a dominant model. Sustainable agriculture is indispensable for the food security of the future. We need to ensure that we are taking care of our planet instead of being the culprit of its destruction.