What is sustainable agriculture?
Sustainable agriculture (also known as sustainable farming) refers to an integrated and systematic process where a localities food demands are met without any compromises on the needs of the future generation. This can help in boosting an eco-system and preserving natural resources.
Why is sustainable agriculture important?
According to most sources, there is a massive increase in the worlds population that is simultaneously causing a massive in food consumption and hence, food demand. Food production must have a rapid growth rate of 70 percent globally to meet the rising demand. This calls for the serious need for reforms in the agricultural industry to ensure that the food needs are met parallelly to the food demands.
This means that the agricultural sector needs to have a dynamic shift from age-old and traditional techniques that are extremely conservative to sustainable farming ideas that are developed across the globe. Global crises of droughts, floods, energy inefficiency are plaguing the agricultural industry and a shift in the agricultural practices from conventional modes to sustainable methods has a promising future.
Reasons for sustainable farming:
- Reduction in energy consumption: Sustainable farming ensures that the use of energy is minimized at all levels of cultivation. Traditional and industrial modes of farming are heavily dependent on energy intensive equipment’s that consume large amounts of fossil fuels. It is also proven that industrial agricultural practices are the main reason and leading source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Sustainable farming not only eliminates the use of fossil fuel but also uses smart farming techniques that use less energy during cultivation. This helps in the overall reduction of energy usage and helps in facing the climate change issues.
- Soil replenishment and restoring natural soil: Sustainable farming gives vital importance to soil nourishment that helps in growing stronger, cleaner plants. This is achieved by the use of natural fertilizers and regular crop rotation. Sustainable farming also focuses on trying to ensure the natural soil is free from toxic compounds that can harm living beings in and around the fields, directly or indirectly. Conventional farming techniques are based on high rates of tillage and extreme use of fertilizers and pesticides to increase produce quantities. While this may show results in the short-run, it is extremely harmful for the environment in the long run. Hence, conventional/ traditional farming does not add to nourishment of the soil but in fact harms it in a longer period.
- Values diversity: Sustainable farming focuses on diverse farming by including a variety of crops in the cultivation periods. The diversity of plants makes sure that the plants can stand against pests, diseases and pathogen outbreaks. This type of faming is also considered to be extremely cooperative as it includes plants and animal production at the same time which provides a more positive eco system for both to survive in.
Industrial agriculture is a monoculture where only a single plant variety is bred constantly, this reduces the strength of the crops and makes them extremely vulnerable to diseases and outbreaks that can spread easily. To prevent this, farmers are highly dependent on pesticides and this can be extremely harmful to consumers, wildlife and the plants itself.
- Conserves and protects water: Sustainable farming uses techniques of irrigation that protect water bodies from pollution. Filter strips are often installed near rivers to reduce any contaminants from flowing into the main water sources. This is not practiced in traditional farming, where large quantities of water are used to irrigate fields without a thought about conservation. Sustainable farming has modes like drip irrigation, sprinkler irrigation and mulching that do not consumer lot of water and actually help in saving the natural resource.
- Works in harmony with nature: Sustainable farming places a lot of emphasis on natural productivity which relies on renewable sources of the environment. Conventional farming is a man-made technique that exploits natural resources. Sustainable farming however, doe not try to create a dominance over nature but tries to follow the course set by natural renewable resources.
- Provides crops with resilience: Sustainable agricultural practices help in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increase the preservation of soil, energy and water. Since sustainable farming focuses on crop rotation and growing a variety of crops, it provides resilience for the crops by ensuring the soil is healthy and contains all the required nutrients for a smooth growth process.
- Stabilizes food supply: Sustainable farming is extremely decentralized and hence limits the food insecurity in case of any external factors like financial imbalance, corporate politics etc. In industrial farming, individual farms are often grouped to big corporations that offer advantages like economies to scale. While this might seem attractive, it is risky because if the corporation faces any problems, each and every single farm will also face the same problem most of the time. This waterfall effect can cause a food crisis easily and have consequences on food security.
- Supports local communities: Sustainable agriculture is localized and places a lot of importance of domestic and local food production. This gives the farmers and opportunity to reinvest their profits within the community and also helps in creating a positive environment by promoting local foods, increasing standards of living and creating rural jobs.
- Others: Public health safety, prevents pollution, Reduction in cost of production, reduces manual labor, prevents soil erosion, increases biodiversity, prevents air and water pollution, saves energy and resources for future generations, reduces farmer’s dependency on non-renewable sources of energy, reduce consumption of chemicals and pesticides, major contributor to environmental conservation, preserves natural resources etc.
While sustainable farming seems to be a far way goal, it can be incorporated in the smallest of ways having a strong cumulative impact economically, ecologically as well as politically. If consumers are given a choice, they will always prefer chemical free and organically grown produce over foods that are sprayed with pesticides. Sustainable agriculture has the potential to bring this option in to commercial markets on a large scale and change the entire agricultural landscape.