Sustainable farming practices or sustainable agriculture refers to the ability to produce endless amounts of food without hurting the environment, or ecosystems. This practice needs to have a balance between agriculture, the environment, economics, animals and people. It is also important to be able to produce food now, without hurting the ability to produce what is needed in the future. For sustainable agriculture to be successful, soil needs to be replenished after harvesting without the using a lot of non-renewable resources.
When farmers grow and harvest crops some nutrients are removed from the soil, including nitrogen. In order to have successful Sustainable farming practices, there has to be a way to return these nutrients to the soil. In the past, non-renewable fuel has been used to return nitrogen to the soil. Recycling plant waste is one way of possibly replacing nitrogen lost with harvesting, and without using non-renewable resources such as fuel.
Water has been the main resource that has helped agriculture and its use needs to be managed. There needs to be better water storage and conservation, and better irrigation systems that use less water. It may also be possible to find some crops which are capable of flourishing in lower water conditions.
Water quality is also important in sustainable farming. In many cases, water can become contaminated with pesticides and nitrates. Salinity is also another problem and could be contained if salt tolerable crops are available. Farmers and scientists alike have debated over ways to have sustainable farming. One reasonable idea involves growing many different crops in a single field, so that the crops grow in different seasons and don’t compete for necessities. In some cases, crops which need nitrogen can be grown in the same field as nitrogen fixing plants. This method would seem to work more towards sustainable farming than growing just one crop in a field.
In order to have sustainable farming practices, other things need to be taken into consideration. It would be important to have crops which are pest resistant, and are able to grow in certain soil conditions. Using a variety of crops helps to make sure that complete farms aren’t wiped out for a season, and there is less of a chance of price fluctuations. Soil conditions can be fragile so it is important for soil to be nurtured so that a farm can have long term productivity.
Decisions made regarding sustainable farming involve many. In addition to environmental, cost and technology, lifestyle choices of those growing the products also needs to be considered. Some farmers also have livestock operations. So crop production and livestock operations can also be entwined. When livestock are involved, that changes the complexity of economic and biological relationships. So there are many considerations there. The type of livestock involved and the nutrition needed for the livestock also influences and affects the farm.
While Sustainable farming practices are certainly possible and most definitely something valuable, having a system like that is extremely complex. It would involve many populations at many levels including farmers, researchers, suppliers, retailers, consumers and policymakers.