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Understanding sustainable agriculture and the strategies to promote it

Sustainable agriculture has been gaining a lot of importance over the past few years owing to the environmental impacts caused by traditional farming practices. The term sustainable agriculture refers to farming that incorporates three essential principles in its practices, economic profitability, social/economic equity and environmental friendliness. Sustainable farming practices would ensure that our current needs are met without compromising the needs of future generations. As such, here are some common practices that can help achieve the same.

Proper use of water

 FARMING

The principal source needed for agriculture, water needs to be carefully used and supplied. This can be done via improved storage and conservation projects, low volume irrigation systems, proper crop management measures and selection of drought resistant crops. Not deciding to plant anything during the drought season can also help manage water better.

Substances like nitrates, selenium and pesticides, etc. tend to contaminate ground and surface water. Hence, the water quality can be improved by adopting measures like reducing salt content on the crops via low volume irrigation and selection of salt resistant crops, creating drought tolerant forages, restoring wildlife habitats and agroforestry.

Proper use of energy

 FARMING WHICH IS SUSTAINABLE

Many modern agriculture practices rely on non-renewable energy sources like petroleum for their operations. Sustainable agriculture would focus on using alternate forms of energy to power these operations, thus minimizing the environmental impact of these practices considerably.

Reduced pollution levels

 sustainable agriculture (1)

A lot of modern agricultural practices also tend to release poisonous gases into the atmosphere, thus affecting air quality. Air quality can be improved by adopting more sustainable practices like planting wind breakers, adding crop residue to soil, using only the necessary level of tillage and planting native perennial grass to absorb dust.

Controlling soil erosion

soil erosion

Soil erosion is another common problem faced by farms that follow traditional farming practices. This can be controlled via sustainable practices like minimum tilling, stubble mulching, planting filter strips and cover crops, using strip cropping, contour cultivation and rotation of foraging animals.

Sustainable practices related to plant production

 sustainable agriculture (2)

Sustainable plan production practices would need to take into account measures like soil characteristics, land topography, local input availability, pests and climate. Some of the more common practices that can be used to thus promote sustainable agriculture in this area include selecting diversified crops and livestock to maintain ecological and biological balance, selecting varieties that can easily adapt to the farm site and conditions, managing the soil to enhance its quality and relying on efficient inputs.

Sustainable practices related to animal production

animal production (2)

Traditional farms used to have a perfect balance between crops and livestock, something that is missing entirely on modern farms that stick to either one of the two options or fail to maintain a proper balance between both. As in the previous case, sustainable agriculture in this area can be promoted by adopting a few essential practices, including managing livestock properly, choosing appropriate animals based on site conditions, reducing feed costs by sourcing the same locally, using quality germplasm to enhance the herd’s performance and maintaining an efficient herd health.

Another area in which sustainable agriculture can be introduced in animal farms is via proper grazing management techniques. The environmental impact caused by traditional grazing techniques can be thwarted by simple measures. These include choosing the right stocking rate aka the correct number of stock per unit area for a specific forage source or landscape, setting up proper fencing arrangements for the stock depending on the grazing needs and managing grazing according to the climate and landscape considerations.

These practices would ensure that the vegetative cover in these regions is not permanently lost and that a proper balance is achieved between these practices in order to reduce environmental impact to a minimum.

Summary

Sustainable agriculture is making waves across the world, thanks to the way in which it helps farms reduce their carbon footprint. The pointers mentioned above indicate how farms can adopt measures to practice as well as promote sustainable agriculture.

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Dr Prem Jagyasi

Dr Prem is an award winning strategic leader, renowned author, publisher and highly acclaimed global speaker. Aside from publishing a bevy of life improvement guides, Dr Prem runs a network of 50 niche websites that attracts millions of readers across the globe. Thus far, Dr Prem has traveled to more than 40 countries, addressed numerous international conferences and offered his expert training and consultancy services to more than 150 international organizations. He also owns and leads a web services and technology business, supervised and managed by his eminent team. Dr Prem further takes great delight in travel photography.

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