Tuesday, January 22, 2013

10 Practices of Sustainable Farming

Sustainable Farming
Sustainable agriculture is the act of farming using principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment. It has been defined as "an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will last over the long term:
  • Satisfy human food and fiber needs
  • Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends
  • Make the most efficient use of non-renewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls
  • Sustain the economic viability of farm operations
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole
[Source: Wikipedia]

Below are the 10 practices that lead to sustainable farming.

1: Use of Alternative Energy

Basically, solar and wind energy are the most known alternative energy. However, some forms of alternative energy can be generated base on the location of the crops. For instance, hydroelectric power might be an option for larger farms near a source of running water. Bio-fuels are another clean source of energy which can be manufactured from cottonseed oil, and it's not only a cheap source of energy, but also a very clean one. 

2: Growing to Sell Locally

Growing and buying locally is key to sustainability, as it enriches the community, minimizes energy consumption, and protects air and soil quality. It also encourages farming in a small scale, so you can have faster turnovers. This in turn pushes more money into the local economy, benefiting the buyers and eventually the farmers again.When grow and sell in the same town, and you won't have to worry about the pollution created by having to transport, package and store crops.

3: Management of Water

There are two common problems in water management in farms: the poor performance of irrigation systems and water waste. Inefficient irrigation systems can deplete rivers, degrade soil and affect wildlife. So, one must ensure the irrigation systems work efficiently. Some farms even set up recycling systems in order to reuse municipal waste water for irrigation. The best way to manage water usage in farms is to choose native crops, select drought-tolerant crops and mulching. 

4: Physical Removal of Weeds

This might be impractical for large farms, smaller crops can easily be taken care of without the use of chemicals. Hand removal is labour intensive and usually only reserved for specific areas machines can't reach or where the crops are too fragile. Most of the physical removal of weeds is done through the use of agricultural machinery or tools. Mowing and grazing are especially effective before weeds produce seeds. Not only does this prevent the weeds from reproducing, but the weeds can also become mulch if not removed. Burning old crops is also an option, but one that should be approached carefully. Not only can burning damage the soil and the local wildlife, but it's also dangerous to the workers. 

5: Managed Grazing

Managed grazing is basically a livestock rotation that moves animals to graze in different areas. Managing their grazing by moving them around will ensure better exposure to a variety of plants, and it also means less erosion because you don't have the animals tromping over the same area of land over and over. Besides, it also helps with weed control and soil fertility. Natural fertilizer can be 'produced' from the manure left behind.  

6: Soil Fertility

Soil healthy is very crucial since the crops get most of their nutrients directly from the soil. Tillage practices, which consist of plowing, turning and airing the soil, have been around for centuries and are still as useful as ever. Many farmers leave some crop residue on the ground before they till to add to the richness of the soil. Adding organic matter, such as manure or cover crops, can also help the soil. Other organic compounds that can be added to the ground as fertilizers include alfalfa meal, wood ash, animal byproducts, rock and mineral products, and alumino-silicate materials. 

7: Attracting Beneficial Animals

To get rid of  pests and harmful insects is to invite in their natural predators. Bats and birds are the two most obvious choices. Both typically stick around if they have a place to nest. Meanwhile, organic pest control is to ensure that beneficial insects also stick around. Ladybugs, beetles, green lacewing larvae and fly parasites all feed on pests, including aphids, mites and pest flies. 

8: Integrated Pest Management

It is the combination of different techniques to create an effective pest control system.The first step is monitoring and identifying pests. Not all pests need to be eliminated. By using techniques like choosing pest-resistant crops, rotating crops and using beneficial insects, the risk of pests settling in is smaller. Prevention is also part of integrated pest management.When it's time to attack pests, targeted spraying is best. 

9. Crop Diversity

These variations ensure genetic diversity, which makes the crops stronger. To help protect their crops against disease and pests, farmers can plant variations of the same species, getting seeds from different growers to ensure small but important differences among the plants.

10: Crop Rotation

Last but not least, crop rotation. It is probably the oldest and simplest system used to maintain the health of soil. While it might not seem so to the non-farming community, crop rotation has a logical order, chosen so the crops planted today can help replenish the nutrients that the previous crops depleted from the soil. In most cases, the system is simple: Plant grains after legumes or row crops after grains.

[Source: discovery.com]


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