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Contrary to industrial agriculture, sustainable farming is aimed at environmental preservation instead of profit. Most industrial farming methods usually degrade the land, making it unfit for agricultural purposes. But alternative sustainable farming implies the use of soil- and animal-friendly cultivation practices.
The idea behind sustainable farming is to produce food while preserving natural resources. This means managing biodiversity and cutting down on chemical applications when growing crops. To achieve this, farmers tend to use a variety of technologies and online tools for help when monitoring their crop and soil health. For instance, various platforms offer the possibility of analyzing the values of different vegetation indices, including the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. With the help of this information, farmers can make more precise and accurate decisions about field activities to prevent the over or under-application of any chemical or water.
For those who want to farm sustainably, this article will cover the main methods and useful tips to aid with that, alongside the benefits these techniques bring.
Sustainable Farming Methods
Industrial farming implies growing feed for animals in large monoculture systems. And that means excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides that harm the environment to support those systems.
Sustainability means substituting harmful agricultural chemicals with natural compost, animal manure, and other organic fertilizers. Such an approach helps growers not only to enhance soil health but also to ensure ecosystem-based pest control.
Ultimately, sustainable crop production means building fertile soil and encouraging beneficial organisms and plant relationships. Here are the main and most effective techniques farmers use for achieving these purposes.
Healthy, fertile soil is key to sustainable crop farming. If the soil structure is healthy, its organic matter, living organisms, and insects ensure water retention and nutrients transfer to plant roots, keeping them healthier and more threats-resistant than if they were treated with chemical fertilizer.
If the soil is depleted, it can be treated with compost, manure, seaweed, and other natural fertilizers to restore the content of necessary nutrients. Besides, an important practice of sustainable farming is cover-cropping, which is basically shielding the ground between seasons. Cover crops are planted between the main ones to perform the functions of manure, adding organic matter and nitrogen to the soil. Such improvement of soil structure means lower erosion possibility.
Reduced tillage or no-till practices keep gaining popularity among farmers. That is because these methods have a positive impact on soil organic matter and its carbon storage ability. Moreover, it improves soil structure and water retention ability. It’s especially evident when growing corn and soybean. Instead of removing weeds by mechanical tillage, farmers that grow these crops allow crop residues to decompose into the soil. Unfortunately, this method still relies on the high use of herbicides, but modern agronomists keep working on transitioning to completely eliminating chemical use in no-till farming in the near future.
Another critical aspect of a sustainable farming system is growing different plants instead of monocultures. Growing the same crop in the same land for several seasons results in pest increase, soil depletion, and even erosion, which means much lower yields. To resolve all these issues, the farmers would have to use an excessive amount of chemicals. A sustainable way out of this situation would be crop rotation, meaning planting different crops in the same location every new season to enrich the soil and avoid any particular pest establishment.
Now, let’s move on to the reasons for applying all of these sustainable farm practices. What benefits does sustainability offer?
Benefits of Sustainability in Farming
Ultimately, the primary benefactor of shifting to sustainability in farming is the environment. Sustainability in agriculture allows for reducing chemical contaminants while also enhancing water quality and soil viability. However, people also rip the benefits of such environment preservation.
There is no denying that the food grown without harmful chemicals is way healthier. That is why sustainable farms also equal organic farms, producing healthy, nutritious, and safe food without high content of harmful agricultural chemicals.
Besides, since sustainability in farming means a wider range of plants and animals, it results in biodiversity overall. Different crops in crop rotation result in soil health improvement and plant diseases and pest outbreaks prevention.
Apart from that, sustainable agricultural practices help farmers to cut costs on production significantly. Smarter farming practices ensure the efficiency of all agricultural processes, aiding everyone involved with the industry.
Ultimately, sustainable farming technologies bring unmatched benefits to the agronomists, the environment, and humanity as a whole. And with the growing world population and global climate change, sustainability seems to become an integral part of such an important and large sphere as agriculture.