Sustainability has become very popular in recent years as more people adopt this mantra. We have heard of sustainable living, sustainable energy, sustainable development, and more recently, sustainable agriculture, but what does it all mean?
Sustainability is the processes and actions through which we can meet our needs without depleting natural resources and compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own requirements. In the same breath, sustainable farming can be defined as the production of plant and animal products through farming techniques that protect environmental ecosystems. If you want to adopt sustainable farming, here are some practices you can try today.
- Rotate crops
This is one of the most powerful techniques of sustainable agriculture. Its main purpose is to avoid the consequences of repeatedly planting one crop in the same soil. Monoculture upsets the natural balance of the soil by depleting the soil of certain nutrients and decreasing the varieties of bacteria and microorganisms needed to maintain soil fertility.
In addition to increasing soil fertility, crop rotation also helps tackle pest problems. Since most pests prefer certain crops, rotating them breaks the cycle of pests.
- Plant cover crops
If you don’t want to leave your farm barren, planting cover crops such as oats, clovers, or radishes is a more sustainable option to monoculture. These crops protect and build soil health by preventing erosion, keeping weeds and pests in check, replenishing soil nutrients, and improving water infiltration.
- Reduce or eliminate tillage
While traditional ploughing [tillage] prevents weed problems and prepares fields for planting, it causes a lot of soil loss. No-till farming, which involves planting seeds into undisturbed soil, is more sustainable and offers countless benefits. It significantly reduces soil erosion, increases water infiltration and retention, and promotes biodiversity in and around the soil.
- Practise soil enrichment
Soil is the central component of all agricultural ecosystems. As such, a huge part of sustainable farming involves constantly improving the quality of your soil. You can improve the quality of your soil by:
- Leaving crop residue in the field after harvesting
• Using compost plant material and animal manure
• Mulching to retain moisture in the soil
5. Consider agroforestry
Agroforestry is the most powerful tool for farmers in dry regions with soils susceptible to desertification. It involves growing perennial trees and shrubs amongst crops. Trees maintain favourable temperatures for your crops by providing shade, minimising nutrient runoff, and protecting your crops from harsh weather conditions. Additionally, adopting agroforestry can give you an extra source of income with product diversification.
Sustainable farming is a win-win situation for you, the farmer, and the environment. The practices mentioned above will improve your soil’s quality and increase the quantity and quality of your yield.