Benefits of Sustainable Farming: The Future of Agriculture
The benefits of sustainable farming can be found from producing healthy food for humans and animals, to conserving the environment and empowering farmers economically.
Sustainable farming, which simply means producing crops and livestock using practices that have minimal effects on the environment, has a wealth of benefits.
Unlike industrialized farming that focuses on mass production for maximum profits, impact on ecosystem notwithstanding, sustainable farming is a balanced type of agriculture that seeks to protect public health, animal welfare, environment and human communities.
Though, industrialized agriculture has been popular among many communities, environmental awareness has led to more farmers embracing the benefits of sustainable farming, in a bid to combat the adverse effects of industrialized farming on the ecosystems.
This shift has seen improved soil health, reduction in pollution levels and water usage, and generally reduced use of inorganic resources in plant and animal production.
Essentially, the practice has brought about long-term health, as well as environmental and economic benefits.
Benefits of Sustainable Farming
The first benefit that comes out of sustainable farming discourages the use of inorganic resources in production. As a result, animal and human health is enhanced as more chemical-free food is made available.
Environmental benefits of sustainable farming are numerous. From lowering greenhouse gas emission (we are seeing the result now) to keeping the soil rich with organic matter, this method of farming enhance a pollution-free environment.
In sustainable agriculture there is a decreased use of synthetic chemicals and non-renewable resources.
Reduction in soil contaminants contributes not only to soil health (enhancing future productivity) but also, decreasing the chances of having consumers bio-accumulating heavy metals like lead (Pb) and arsenic (Ar).
Notable also, is the drastic reduction in soil erosion, which is achieved through practices like mulching, reduction of runoff through managed irrigation and elimination of tillage. Consequently, water pollution through run-off is also reduced.
Sustainable farming leads to a reduction in the use of expensive synthetic fertilizers and other inorganic resources in livestock and crop production thus, farmers are able to save on inputs. In addition, urban farming which is a type of sustainable farming, cuts on transportation costs leading to lower food prices.
Sustainable Agriculture Practices
Crop rotation is basically where a different crop, like a legume, is planted on a field in a subsequent season to replenish the nutrients used by the previous crop, say a grain.
This helps counter crop diseases as well as keep the soil healthy by suppressing pathogens, weeds and insect pests.
This technique involves nurturing and protecting soil for long-term stability and productivity, using manure, cover crops, soil cover like mulches.
This practice relates of adding manure, water retention materials like clay, lime for soil acidity reduction. This is done to improve plant health and growth.
Poly culture, which essentially means growing multiple crops together, helps in pest control and reduction of crops’ susceptibility to diseases among other benefits.
Managed grazing involves practices like lowering stock density, subdividing the grazing field into small enclosures (known as paddocks), where the livestock are moved between the them regularly.
The importance of using paddocks is that, on top of providing animals with a range of nutrients, the method ensures animals are not exposed to build up of micro organisms that are likely to cause infections.
Other sustainable farming practices include: urban farming, agroforestry, biodynamics, permaculture, aquaponics and hydroponics.
What are some of the Disadvantages of Sustainable Farming?
Reduced crop output in the short-term
Sustainable farming limits optimum utilization of land and other resources, as it advocates for controlled use of production resources. This affects the output in the short-term.
Poor soil fertility
Producing crops sustainably, discourages use of inorganic manures and pest control chemicals. On the contrary, it advocates for use of organic manures and methods like crop rotation and diversification to boost soil fertility and control crop diseases.
However, these methods can limit productivity especially where soil nutrients are acutely depleted.
Unlike industrialized farming, which focuses on mass production, sustainable farming limits utilization of available resources.
Thus, farmers are not able to exploit their farms’ full potential, translating to low incomes.
A farming technique that leads to environmental pollution and degradation of the natural resources, loses its ability to produce in the long-run. Sustainable farming therefore seeks to strike a balance between present productivity and ecosystem preservation for future productivity.
Many farmers are starting to foreseen the benefits of sustainable farming and are evolving towards a powerful and stronger agriculture that not only will provide advantages to them, but also, will enhance the sustainability of the communities in need.