It is a formidable challenge to meet society’s present food and textile needs in today’s world. Particularly without compromising the ability of future or current generations to meet their needs. There has been the development of farming practices sustainably in recent years. One of the best ways to balance climate change is to create sustainable food systems based on sustainable farming.
These practices are based on an understanding of ecosystem services. Farming has an enormous environmental impact as it plays a significant role in causing climate change, water scarcity, land degradation, deforestation, and other processes. It is the cause of both ecological changes, and farming bears the impact of these changes simultaneously.
Consequently, the development of sustainable food systems contributes to the sustainability of the human population. Sustainable agriculture provides a potential solution to enable agricultural systems to feed a growing population within the changing environmental conditions.
What is Sustainable Farming?
The term sustainable means the farming practices considering the ecological cycles. It is sensitive towards microorganisms and their role in the environment. In other words, it is farming ecologically by promoting practices and methods that are environmentally correct, economically viable, and protect public health in the long term.
It concentrates on the economic aspect of farming ie organic farming and the use of non-renewable factors. Consequently, it contributes to the growth of healthy and nutritious food. Additionally, it uplifts the living standards of the farmers.
Over the last few decades, our environment and ecology have become an area of concern for us. Consequently, it has increasingly led us to contemplate, innovate and operate alternate methods to save our ecology. Sustainable farming is one such initiative. It simply means producing food, plants, and animal products using farming methods beneficial for public health, promoting economic profitability.
Sustainable farming allows the farmers to innovate and employ recycling methods and the conventional perks of farming. Recycling in sustainable farming is done from animal manure or crop waste. Farming can transform the same into fertilizers that can help in soil enrichment.
Crop rotation is another such method. Crop rotation keeps the soil rich and potent by maintaining its nutrients. Another good practice is the collection of rainwater via channeling and then utilizing it for irrigation.
What are the Benefits of Sustainable Farming
1. Environment Preservation
2. Economic Profitability
3. Most efficient use of non-renewable resources
4. Protection of Public Health
5. Social and Economic Equity
Sustainable Farming with Renewable Energy Sources
The usage of alternative sources of energy is one of the most important practices. The services of solar, hydro-power, or wind farms are eco-friendly. Farmers can store solar energy by using solar panels. Subsequently, they can use it for electrical fencing and running heaters and pumps. Another example is that of hydroelectric power.
Hydroelectric power generated from running river water can be another renewable energy source, and the farms can use it to operate various machines in the farms. They can use geothermal heat pumps to dig beneath the earth and take advantage of its heat.
Integrated Pest Management in Sustainable Farming
Integrated pest management combines pest control techniques for the identification and observation of pests in the initial stages. The point to note here is that not all pests are harmful. Therefore it makes more sense to co-exist with the crop than spend cash to eliminate them.
If you want to eliminate specific pests, then you must opt for target spraying. This helps you to spray on the selected areas, and additionally, it will also protect wildlife.
Aquaponics and Hydroponics Methods for Sustainable Farming
These innovative farming methods involve the growing of plants without soil. The plants get their nourishment through specialized nutrients that are added to water. Crops are grown directly in an inert medium like gravel or perlite or a mineral solution in hydroponic systems (hydroponic in Dubai). Aquaponics combines the raising of fish with the growing of hydroponic crops.
The water contains nutrients resulting from the mineralization of the waste material from the aquaculture fish. The nutrient-rich water nourishes hydroponic plants. Once the plants use the water, the water gets purified and then re-circulated back into the farming system to reuse the fish.
Both aquaponic and hydroponic systems are available in various scales ranging from small home-scale systems to commercial-scale systems (commercial farming).
Sustainable Farming by Crop Rotation and Polyculture
Crop rotation is one of the ancient farming practices for keeping the soil nutritious and healthy. The crops are chosen so that the crops planted in one season will replenish the salts and nutrients in the soil absorbed by the previous crop cycle.
In Polyculture, multiple crop species are grown in one area. These species complement each other, and more products (crop production)can be produced in a single area while fully utilizing the available resources. Subsequently, high biodiversity makes the system more resistant to weather fluctuations, promotes a balanced diet, and applies natural mechanisms to preserve the fertility of the soil.
Sustainable Farming with Permaculture
Permaculture is a food production system with intention, design, and smart farming to reduce resource wastage and increase production efficiency. Subsequently, it focuses on using perennial crops such as fruit trees, nut trees, and shrubs that function together in a designed system. Consequently, this system simulates how plants in a natural ecosystem would function.
Permaculture design techniques include the following.
- Growing grain without tillage.
- Herb and plant spirals.
- Keyhole and mandala gardens.
- Sheet mulching.
- Each plant is serving multiple purposes.
Crop Diversity and Minimize Soil Erosion
Farmers can grow varieties of the same crop yielding small but substantial differences among the plants. This eases financial burdening. This process is called crop diversity, and its practical use is on a downslide.
Healthy soil is key to a good crop. Age-old techniques like tilling the land, plowing, etc., still work wonders. Manure, fertilizers, cover crops, etc., also help improve soil quality. Crop rotations prevent the occurrence of diseases in crops, as per studies conducted.
Natural Pest Eliminators and Managed Grazing
Bats, birds, insects, etc., work as natural pest eliminators. Consequently, farmers build a shelter to keep these eliminators close. Ladybugs, beetles, green lacewing larvae, and fly parasites feed on pests, including aphids, mites, and pest flies. These pest eliminators are available in bulk from pest control stores or farming supply shops. Farmers can buy and release them on or around the crops and let them make the farm their home.
Farmers in this method maintain a periodic shift of the grazing lands for cattle both crop and livestock. Consequently, the livestock movement offers them a variety of grazing pastures. This effectively means that cattle will receive various nutrients, which are good for them. The excreta of these cattle serves as a natural fertilizer for the land. The change of location prevents soil erosion as the same patch of land is not trampled constantly. Additionally, by grazing in time, one gets rid of mowing the weeds long before producing more seeds and multiplying.
Better Water Management in Sustainable Farming
The selection of the right crops helps in water management. Consequently, the local crops are chosen as they are more adaptable to the region’s weather conditions. Particularly, the crops that do not demand too much water are chosen for dry areas. Irrigation systems need proper planning else it will lead to other issues like river depletion, dry land, and soil degradation—building rainwater harvesting systems for storing rainwater (water quality )and using them in drought prevailing conditions.
Manual Removal of Weeds and Biodynamic Farming
Removing the weeds manually and biodynamic farming are sustainable farming methods. Farmers or farm families having small farms can use their hands to remove weeds from crops where machines can not reach or where crops are too fragile. This is quite a labor-intensive task and is not suitable for large farms. Besides, a farmer can also burn the old crops so that weeds do not produce seeds and destroy the rest. However, that will cause pollution in the air and can also affect the soil quality.
Biodynamics incorporates ecological and holistic growing practices based on the philosophy of anthroposophy. Biodynamic practices are applied to farms that grow various produce, gardens, vineyards, and other forms of agriculture. In biodynamic farming, the high biodiversity of plants, animals, and beneficial insects helps replenish soil fertility and enhance plant growth to create a resilient ecosystem and support each other’s health.
Biodynamics focus on generating the necessary health and soil fertility for growing food production onsite by implementing practices include composting, application of animal manure from farmed animals, cover cropping or rotating complementary crops. Working with the natural phenomenon of the cosmos also greatly influences the health of the soil, plants, and animals during different moon and sun cycles.
Save Transportation Costs as Sustainable farming
Targeting the sales of the production in the local market saves transportation and packaging hassles. It also eliminates the need for storage space. Therefore, when stuff is grown and sold in local markets, it makes a community self-sufficient, economically sound. It saves energy, and it doesn’t harm the environment in any way.
Sustainable farming is economical, and it helps in the conservation of our natural resources. Sustainable farming practices also helps reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This makes the process more organic and clean.