Sustainable agriculture is the safe way to produce high-quality agricultural products. However, in the last decades, people have turned the other way. In our day and age, agriculture has been industrialized, mechanized, and now relies on chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Yet there is another form of farming that enables us to produce healthy foods without compromising the natural environment. We are going to talk about agricultural farming, its techniques, and why it has such a positive impact on food health.
What Is Sustainable Agriculture?
The sustainable agriculture definition can be put, in simplest terms, in the production of food items by using techniques that protect the natural environment, public health, and animal welfare.
Agricultural workers who take a sustainable approach rely on natural processes rather than modern ones and are able to minimize the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Instead, they nurture the presence of organisms that can manage pests, keep the soil healthy by planting different crops each year, and minimize water use, among many others.
According to the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform, a more expanded definition of sustainable agriculture can be expressed in the following way:
Sustainable agriculture is the efficient production of safe, high-quality agricultural products, in a way that protects and improves the natural environment, the social and economic conditions of farmers, their employees and local communities, and safeguards the health and welfare of all farmed species.
Sustainable Farming Practices
Below are the most common sustainable agriculture methods employed by people working in eco-friendly farms to achieve their key goals of controlling weeds, pests, diseases, and soil erosion.
Crop rotation is one of the main techniques when approaching agricultural sustainability. It means that rather than planting the same plants in the same soil each year, the crops are rotated to effectively control pests. Crop rotation is one of the most efficient solutions to pest problems because the damaging organisms usually have a preference for a certain plant, and once it is replaced by another, the pest populations cannot continue to grow. Rotation reduces pests in all crops by breaking their reproductive cycles.
Healthy soils improve yields and produce crops less vulnerable to the harmful organisms that would otherwise destroy them. As for the unhealthy, abused soils, they require heavy, chemical fertilizers to produce high yields.
When using sustainable methods, farmers leave crop residues in the fields after harvest or add composted plant material and animal manure.
Chemical pesticides have a huge negative impact on the environment and, ultimately, on the quality of the finished food product we end up buying. Furthermore, pesticides kill predators that could be of great value to farmers dealing with infestations or pests. Agricultural workers using sustainable techniques harbor populations of predators that help decrease the number of pests in an all-natural way.
Rather than leaving the fields bare between cropping periods, some farmers have plants growing at all times. Cover crops such as clover or oats help farmers prevent soil erosion and suppress weeds, while also enhancing soil quality. This overpowers the need for chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides.
Biointensive Integrated Pest Management
Biointensive Integrated Pest Management is the incorporation of ecological and economic factors into the plant cultivation system design. The approach relies on biological measures and highlights the importance of crop rotation, the introduction of disease fighting-microbes into plants or soil, and the benefit of pest predators.
The benefits include decreased environmental impact, reduced chemical (pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers) input costs, sustainable pest management, and food safety.
Sustainable Farming and Food Health
Industrial agriculture dominates the United States food system at the moment. Public awareness has managed to build an extensive support for sustainable farming, creating a market for sustainable foods, products that are considered to be safe.
Modern agricultural practices have contributed to an increase in food insecurity worldwide. Implementing sustainable agricultural techniques in all countries of the globe could very well diminish food insecurity. This will result in increased local food availability and economic health, healthy lifestyles, and end rural poverty.
Proper nutrition that can only come from plants grown using organic methods has many benefits beyond calories intake. It also means healthy diets, adequate micronutrient intake of infants, and a much lower incidence of noncommunicable diseases. Sustainable crops avoid pesticides, thus are able to grow vegetables and fruits that are safe for consumers.
Healthy soils, plants, and water, boosting yields and restoring degraded lands through sustainable practices are key factors in food production. Many elements used in traditional farming, enriched by scientific knowledge, can support high-yielding food systems through sustainable land, nutrients, water, pest management, and others.
Sustainable practices have succeeded to draw more and more attention on the importance of producing healthful foods. Many companies are beginning to take steps to improve the environmental and health impacts their techniques have on our food system while environmental organizations are encouraging sustainable farming methods as a way of lowering the carbon footprint.
Raising awareness of the connection between diets and health is crucial, as we must be conscious that our food choices determine the quality of life we lead. And it is in the hands of the public to demand regulatory reform and agricultural policy.