Awareness about the harm caused to the environment due to large-scale agriculture is on the rise. Farming methods have changed a lot over the years. No doubt, these methods have helped improve production, the use of chemicals has also gone up. The usage of chemicals in growing plants increases serious risks for humans as well as for the environment. Hence, it is necessary for the sake of our health and the environment, the time is ripe to adapt eco friendly agriculture practices.
Due to this, eco friendly farming has gained a lot of interest. It is fast becoming a priority. Eco friendly farming can offset the problems caused by traditional farming methods. Some of these problems are as follows
- Clearing forests.
- Destruction of natural habitats.
- The negative impact of pesticides.
- Intense carbon outputs.
Eco friendly farming solutions are aggressively promoted by environmentalists and policyholders. These solutions can overcome these damages. In this article, we discuss the environmental aspects of eco friendly farming and its various methods.
Why is Eco Friendly Farming Beneficial?
Eco friendly alternatives to any of the traditional farming methods are in higher demand. This is due to growing awareness of the damages caused to the natural ecosystems by traditional farming methods. The impact of soil erosion, harmful chemicals and heavy water consumption are few of the environmental concerns.
Traditional farming practices also have negative impacts on water quality. Improper farming methods may elevate concentrations of nutrients and sediment loads. The increase in nutrient loading from animal waste is also harmful. It leads to an increase in the amount of phosphorus, nitrogen in the water bodies. Eventually, this would damage aquatic ecosystems. Eco friendly farming includes maintenance of soil health, conservative water use, and minimizing air and water pollution. Hence farmers today are shifting to eco friendly alternatives.
Top Eco Friendly Farming Methods
Here we present some of the eco friendly farming practices which are fast becoming popular.
1 Make use of Renewable Energy Sources
The essential practice in eco friendly farming is the use of alternate sources of energy. Additionally, the service of solar, hydro-power or wind farms is eco friendly. Therefore, the electrical fencing, heaters and pumps should run on solar energy stored in solar panels.
Running river water is a source of hydroelectric power. Hydroelectric power can run various farming machinery. Alternatively, farmers can use geothermal heat pumps to take advantage of the earth’s heat. Solar panels can be used to run pumping and heating systems. Farmers can compare energy consumption rates to identify the best suitable power sources.
Permaculture is an eco friendly food production system that mimics how vegetables and plants grow in natural ecosystems. It applies natural principles that combine intention, smart farming, and design. Subsequently, this reduces the waste of resources, and it increases the production efficiency. The design methods in permaculture include growing grains and vegetables without tillage. Its focus is on the use of perennial crops such as fruit trees, nut trees, and shrubs that all function together.
Some of the common permaculture techniques include the following;
- Growing grain without tillage.
- Herb and plant spirals.
- Hugelkultur garden beds.
- Keyhole and mandala gardens.
- Sheet mulching.
Each plant serves many purposes. They create steps or swales on contour to hold water high on the landscape. In simple terms, permaculture is the design of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have diversity and stability while considering the existing environment and natural ecosystems.
3 Aquaponics & Hydroponics
In the past few years, hydroponics and aquaponics have generated a lot of interest in the agriculture community. They have been regarded as innovative eco friendly farming methods. Both of the these methods involve soilless plant growth.
The hydroponics method involves growing plants in a soil-less environment. In short, the root of these plants placed in mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. Eventually, they take the nutrients directly from this solution. A layer of gravel provides stability to the plant. The crops are grown directly in a mineral solution.
Hydroponics is a form of gardening that uses no soil, but instead grows plants in a solution of water and nutrients. In simple words, Hydroponics is a way to skip the soil, sub in a different material to support the roots of the plant, and grow crops directly in nutrient-rich
Aquaponics farming systems combine elements of both aquaculture and hydroponics elements. The water contains nutrients resulting from the fish waste. The water feeds the roots of plants and vegetables, which can grow in various mediums. After the plants use the water, the water gets purified and then re-circulated back into the hydroponics section of the system to be reused by the fish.
4 Crop Rotation & Polycultures
Growing the same crop year after year on the same land reduces the soil fertility. Farmers can reduce the chances of diseases of plants through crop diversification on the surface of the land. These practices reduce the number of pesticides and chemical fertilizers required. Crop rotation is an eco friendly technique of growing several dissimilar or different crop types in the same area in sequential seasons. Crop rotation is beneficial both to the farmer and to the environment.
When the same crop is grown at the same place for several years, the soil gets depleted of certain nutrients. As per the principles of crop rotation, a crop that draws one particular kind of nutrient from the soil is followed by a different crop in the next season. During the subsequent season, a crop returns the nutrient to the soil or draws a distinct ratio of nutrients such as rice followed by cotton.
Polyculture farming is an eco friendly farming method that involves growing multiple types of crops in one area. These crop types complement each other, and greater diversity of products can be produced in one location. Subsequently, there is complete utilization of available resources. This makes it eco friendly. A greater diversity makes the system more flexible to weather fluctuations. It promotes a balanced diet and applies natural mechanisms for preserving soil fertility.
5 Biodynamic Farming
Application of animal manure from farmed animals.
Cover cropping or rotating complementary crops.
6 Integrated Pest Management & Natural Pest Eliminators
7 Manual Removal of Weeds – Eco Friendly Step
Small farm owners can use their hands for removal of weeds from crops. Especially, where machines cannot reach or where crops are too fragile. This is a very labor-intensive task prevalent in the third world. It is not suitable for large farms.
A farmer can also burn the old crops so that weeds do not produce seeds and destroy the rest of the crops. But, this is not advisable as it is a major cause of air pollution and can also affect soil fertility.
8 Better Water Management
The selection of the right crop is the first step in water management. It would help if you chose local crops as they are more adaptable to the local weather conditions. Additionally, the crops that do not need too much water should be selected for the dry areas.
You should plan irrigation systems well. Otherwise, you will end up with other problems like river depletion, soil degradation, and dry land. There is a need to build rainwater harvesting systems for rainwater storage. During the drought prevailing conditions, you can use this stored water.
9 Agroforestry – Eco Friendly Farming
Agroforestry is a powerful method for farmers in dry regions with soils prone to desertification. It involves the growth of shrubs and trees amongst crops or grazing land. Thus it a combination of both agriculture and forestry practices. This promotes productive, long-lasting, and diverse land use.
The trees create a favorable climate in the small area in agroforestry, thereby maintaining a good temperature and humidity. Thus, they protect the crops from heavy rain or wind. Trees stabilize the soil and improve soil structure. They also minimize nutrient runoff. The trees also provide wood and fruits, which acts as an additional income for farmers. Additionally, there are great possibilities for product diversification.
Food forests or forest gardens are based on natural forest ecosystems comprising a multilayered edible “forest.” They are composed entirely of all season food plants. Food forest systems are very productive because of the diversity of plants that are growing there.
Eco friendly farming is the key to a better tomorrow. Promoting eco friendliness across the farming value chain leads to an increase in food production capacities. Additionally, it offers active environmental protection. Eco friendly farming is a necessity for a better tomorrow.