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As we all know, the world’s population is rapidly accelerating. But here are some startling facts; according to United Nations population projections, the world population will grow from 5.7 billion in 1995 to 9.4 billion in 2050, 10.4 billion in 2100, and 10.8 billion by 2150.
That’s a lot of mouths to feed.
Across the globe, the demand for food rises as population swells. This places an enormous weight on the shoulders of farmers striving to meet this need. At the same time, their goals are to do this without compromising the environment.
Producing enough food can’t come at the expense of depleting resources that future farmers will depend on.
These urgent issues being addressed by groups worldwide with a mission to protect the environment and ensure the world as we know it can survive in the distant future.
Farmers face challenges of increasing their crop yield without further damaging the ecosystem. One answer to this conundrum are sustainable farming practices.
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What Is Sustainable Farming?
Sustainable farming is an umbrella term for ways to produce a sufficient and profitable harvest without having negative impacts on the environment at large.
Farmers practicing sustainable farming are working tirelessly to meet the demand for food while protecting both their own land, and the greater environment worldwide.
Environmental sustainability in agriculture promotes awareness, protection and monitoring the natural systems that farms need. These methods in order to be efficient, and productive, and profitable enough to stay keep the farm in business.
Some examples of sustainable farming methods include:
- Keeping air, water and climate pollution to a minimum
- Fortifying and maintaining healthy soil
- Managing water wisely
- Promoting biodiversity
Specifically, sustainable farming is designed to meet the following requirements:
- Satisfy the demand for food among humans
- Enhance environmental quality and protect natural resources
- Make the most efficient use of renewable natural resources on the farm, such as wind or water energy
- Help farmers stay in business
- Enhance the quality of life for farmers and communities worldwide
How Can Farmers Accomplish These Goals?
Right off the bat, it means they have to switch up farming practices dating back many generations. The ways their fathers and grandfathers and others in the family tree managed their farm is a thing of the past.
Sustainable farming spans across the entire scope of producing crops. It includes conserving the resources in the property and, on the other side of the coin, not adding anything that will do further environmental damage over time.
Today, sustainable farming practices commonly include:
- Keeping pests at bay with integrated pest management strategies that cut back on the need for chemical and other damaging pesticides. This is being done by putting into practice newly researched biological and mechanical pest controls. Farmers keep an eye out to identify pets earlier and target their spraying only for particular pests in the designated area. They even build shelters to attract creatures that naturally keep bugs and other pests away. These are bats, birds and a variety of other insects.
- Encouraging maximum crop growth while cutting back on the use of chemicals by using natural fertilizers such as animal and green manures. This not only safeguards the soil and water, it also results in crops that are healthier for us to eat.
- Crop rotation. This is the practice of growing different crops in the same area across growing seasons rather than letting the land sit baking under the sun. This has amazing results. It helps keep weeds under control, sends bugs and other pests to other places to feed, draws different nutrients from the soil, reduces soil erosion, and makes the best use of available water sources.
- Planting trees and shrubs along with growing crops, to provide shade and shelter to plants, animals and water resources.
- Choosing the right crops based on the soil quality of the site as well as the seasons. Rainy seasons help promote growth in crops requiring damp soil, while others are more drought-resistant. Then there’s the issue of conserving water. Farmers build water storage containers and plan their irrigation system to maximize their use of natural resources. Rainwater is one of the most valuable ingredients to a successful growing season. These rainwater harvesting systems make the best use of this natural resource.
- Planting cover crops. Cover crops, such as clover, can be planted during off-season times when fields of soil might otherwise be left empty. Cover crops protect and build soil’s resilience by slowing down erosion, renewing natural nutrients in soil, and keeping weeds at a minimum, which will cut back on the need for chemical herbicides.
Using Renewable Energy Sources
The use of gas and oil-powered farming equipment is also being actively addressed. Alternative energy sources are imperative.
Sustainable farming encourages finding alternatives that rely less on non-renewable energy and instead, makes better use of renewable sources. These include solar, wind and water power.
Upgrading systems that harness these energy sources has a dramatic effect on preventing further damage to the environment as we uncover for energy sources that will one day be depleted.
Researching and developing renewable energy sources for farming is a major priority to protect the climate.
Billions of Americans rely on farmers to plant, cultivate and produce healthy crops.
But a vast number of organizations are sounding the alarm that this can’t be done at the expense of polluting the earth’s natural resources. Future farmers and the world’s exploding population will rely on the availability of clean water, enriched soil and fewer pests destroying crops.
Sustainable farming is an enormous and innovative step in the process of repairing the damage that has been done and preventing more of the same in the future.
There are many new practices in place for sustainable farming that will make a long-lasting improvement on the health of the earth. These range from harnessing power from rain, the sun and wind, making sure soil maintains the proper nutrients, and keeping pests away without potentially dangerous chemicals.
The sustainable movement also encourages people to get more involved in agriculture by learning more about farming practices and becoming active participants in the world’s food systems.
With a unified effort, sustainability can be practiced and perfected not just over the span of the few decades, but indefinitely in time.
The bottom line is that we need healthy, affordable, fairly and sustainably produced food today, tomorrow, and into the future.