Sustainable agriculture gained popularity after the concept of modernization in environment and WTO implication to promote sanitary and phyto- sanitary measure for agriculture. This concept reveals that a sustained able agriculture does not deplete soils, people and resources. Sustainable agriculture is integrated, nature-based agro ecosystems designed to be self-reliant, resource- conserving and productive…..
Sustainable agriculture gained popularity after the concept of modernization in environment and WTO implication to promote sanitary and phyto- sanitary measure for agriculture. This concept reveals that a sustained able agriculture does not deplete soils, people and resources. Sustainable agriculture is integrated, nature-based agro ecosystems designed to be self-reliant, resource- conserving and productive in both the short and long terms. A sustainable agriculture is ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just and humane. Sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Therefore, making the transition to sustainable agriculture is a process. For farmers, the transition to sustainable agriculture normally requires a series of small, realistic steps. Family economics and personal goals influence how fast or how far participants can go in the transition. It is important to realize that each small decision can make a difference and contribute to advancing the entire system further on the “sustainable agriculture continuum.” The key to moving forward is the will to take the next step. Finally, it is important to point out that, to attain the goal of sustainable agriculture is the responsibility of all participants in the system, including farmers, laborers, policymakers, researchers, retailers, and consumers. Each group has its own part to play, its own unique contribution to make to strengthen the sustainable agriculture community. To meet the requirements of this age, we must concentrate on sustainable ways to develop our agriculture.
Agriculture has changed dramatically, especially since the end of World War II. Food and fiber productivity soared due to new technologies, mechanization, increased chemical use, and specialization that favored maximizing production. Although these changes have had many positive effects and reduced many risks in farming, there have also been significant costs. Prominent among these are, topsoil depletion, water contamination, air pollution, energy depletion, decline of family farms, Continued neglect of the living and working conditions for farm laborers, Increasing costs of production, the disintegration of economic and social conditions in rural communities and deforestation.
Soil erosion continues to be a serious threat to our continued ability to produce adequate food. Numerous practices have been developed to keep soil in place, which include reducing or eliminating tillage, managing irrigation to reduce runoff, and keeping the soil covered with plants or mulch. Water is the principal Resource that has helped agriculture and society to prosper, and it has been a major limiting factor when mismanaged. So it is important to, improve water conservation and storage measures, providing incentives for selection of drought-tolerant crop species, using reduced-volume irrigation systems and managing crops to reduce water loss. The most important issues related to water quality involve salinization and contamination of ground and surface waters by pesticides, nitrates and selenium. Salinity has become a problem wherever water of even relatively low salt content is used on shallow soils in arid regions and/or where the water table is near the root zone of crops. Tile drainage can remove the water and salts, but the disposal of the salts and other contaminants may negatively affect the environment depending upon where they are deposited. Temporary solutions include the use of salt-tolerant crops, low-volume irrigation, and various management techniques to minimize the effects of salts on crops. In the long-term, some farmland may need to be removed from production or converted to other uses. Other uses include conversion of row crop land to production of drought-tolerant forages, the restoration of wildlife habitat or the use of agro forestry to minimize the impacts of salinity and high water tables. Pesticide and nitrate contamination of water can be reduced using IPM (Integrated Pest Management).
Agricultural activities also affect air quality. These include smoke from agricultural burning; dust from tillage, traffic and harvest; pesticide drift from spraying; and nitrous oxide emissions from the use of nitrogen fertilizer. Options to improve air quality include incorporating crop residue into the soil, using appropriate levels of tillage, and planting wind breaks, cover crops or strips of native perennial grasses to reduce dust. Modern agriculture is heavily dependent on non-renewable energy sources, especially petroleum. The continued use of these energy sources cannot be sustained indefinitely, yet to abruptly abandon our reliance on them would be economically catastrophic. However, a sudden cutoff in energy supply would be equally disruptive. In sustainable agricultural systems, there is reduced reliance on non-renewable energy sources and a substitution of renewable sources or labor to the extent that is economically feasible.
Wild life is also affected by environmental condition prevailing in particular area. So agriculture is the principle agent of ecosystem destruction and species loss. Food production uses more land and freshwater than any other human activity. Parks and wildlife reserves are essential to the survival of wild nature, but they are not enough. Conservationists must work with those who use the land, primarily farmers. Much land for agriculture was cleared decades ago, most of the deforestation has occurred in the past 20 years. Pesticide use on farms threatens worker health and safety and contaminates.
Due to awareness regarding sustainable environment, we may enrich our self with precious treasure of environmental health, economic profitability and social and economic equity. We can adopt different ways and means to attain our goal in the said field. Sustainable production practices involve a variety of approaches. Specific strategies must take into account topography, soil characteristics, climate, pests, local availability of inputs and the individual grower’s goals. Despite the site-specific and individual nature of sustainable agriculture, several general principles can be applied to help growers select appropriate management practices:
- Selection of species and varieties that are well suited to the site and to conditions on the farm;
- Diversification of crops (including livestock) and cultural practices to enhance the biological and economic stability of the farm;
- Management of the soil to enhance and protect soil quality;
- Efficient and humane use of inputs; and
- Consideration of farmers’ goals and lifestyle choices.
Preventive strategies, adopted earlier can reduce inputs and help establish a sustainable production system. When possible, pest-resistant crops should be selected which are tolerant of existing soil or site conditions. When site selection is an option, factors such as soil type and depth, previous crop history, and location (e.g. climate, topography) should be taken into account before planting.
Diversified farms are usually more economically and ecologically resilient. While monoculture farming has advantages in terms of efficiency and ease of management, the loss of the crop in any one year could put a farm out of business and/or seriously disrupt the stability of a community dependent on that crop. By growing a variety of crops, farmers spread economic risk and are less susceptible to the radical price fluctuations associated with changes in supply and demand. Properly managed, diversity can also buffer a farm in a biological sense. For example, in annual cropping systems, crop rotation can be used to suppress weeds, pathogens and insect pests. Also, cover crops can have stabilizing effects on the agro ecosystem by holding soil and nutrients in place, conserving soil moisture with mowed or standing dead mulches, and by increasing the water infiltration rate and soil water holding capacity. Cover crops in orchards and vineyards can buffer the system against pest infestations by increasing beneficial arthropod populations and can therefore reduce the need for chemical inputs. Using a variety of cover crops is also important in order to protect against the failure of a particular species to grow and to attract and sustain a wide range of beneficial arthropods. Optimum diversity may be obtained by integrating both crops and livestock in the same farming operation. This was the common practice for centuries until the mid-1900s when technology, government policy and economics compelled farms to become more specialized. Mixed crop and livestock operations have several advantages. First, growing row crops only on more level land and pasture or forages on steeper slopes will reduce soil erosion. Second, pasture and forage crops in rotation enhance soil quality and reduce erosion; livestock manure, in turn, contributes to soil fertility. Third, livestock can buffer the negative impacts of low rainfall periods by consuming crop residue that in “plant only” systems would have been considered crop failures. Finally, feeding and marketing are flexible in animal production systems. This can help cushion farmers against trade and price fluctuations and, in conjunction with cropping operations, make more efficient use of farm labor.
Common philosophy among sustainable agriculture practitioners is that a “healthy” soil is a key component of sustainability; that is, a healthy soil will produce healthy crop plants that have optimum vigor and are less susceptible to pests. While many crops have key pests that attack even the healthiest of plants, proper soil, water and nutrient management can help prevent some pest problems brought on by crop stress or nutrient imbalance. Furthermore, crop management systems that impair soil quality often result in greater inputs of water, nutrients, pesticides, and/or energy for tillage to maintain yields. In sustainable systems, the soil is viewed as a fragile and living medium that must be protected and nurtured to ensure its long-term productivity and stability. Methods to protect and enhance the productivity of the soil include using cover crops, compost and/or manures, reducing tillage, avoiding traffic on wet soils, and maintaining soil cover with plants and/or mulches. Conditions in most California soils (warm, irrigated, and tilled) do not favor the buildup of organic matter. Regular additions of organic matter or the use of cover crops can increase soil aggregate stability, soil tilth, and diversity of soil microbial life.
Many inputs and practices used by conventional farmers are also used in sustainable agriculture. Sustainable farmers, however, maximize reliance on natural, renewable, and on-farm inputs. Equally important are the environmental, social, and economic impacts of a particular strategy. Converting to sustainable practices does not mean simple input substitution. Frequently, it substitutes enhanced management and scientific knowledge for conventional inputs, especially chemical inputs that harm the environment on farms and in rural communities. The goal is to develop efficient, biological systems, which do not need high levels of material inputs. Growers frequently ask if synthetic chemicals are appropriate in a sustainable farming system. Sustainable approaches are those that are the least toxic and least energy intensive, and yet maintain productivity and profitability. Preventive strategies and other alternatives should be employed before using chemical inputs from any source. However, there may be situations where the use of synthetic chemicals would be more “sustainable” than a strictly non-chemical approach or an approach using toxic “organic” chemicals. For example, one grape grower switched from tillage to a few applications of a broad-spectrum contact herbicide in the vine row. This approach may use less energy and may compact the soil less than numerous passes with a cultivator or mower.
Management decisions should reflect not only environmental and broad social considerations, but also individual goals and lifestyle choices. For example, adoption of some technologies or practices that promise profitability may also require such intensive management that one’s lifestyle actually deteriorates. Management decisions that promote sustainability nourish the environment, the community and the individual. Management decisions should reflect not only environmental and broad social considerations, but also individual goals and lifestyle choices. For example, adoption of some technologies or practices that promise profitability may also require such intensive management that one’s lifestyle actually deteriorates. Management decisions that promote sustainability nourish the environment, the community and the individual. Different suggestion can be taken under consideration for having high mark in the field of sustainable agriculture.
- o Conduct ecological, social and industry research
- Develop practical, concrete and measurable guidelines for reduced impact farming
- Provide environmental education to farm managers, workers and their families
- Provide a forum for community input on the impacts of agriculture
- Reward growers who meet the socio-environmental standards by encouraging consumer demand for certified products
By. Muhammad Ramzan Rafique & Shoukat Ali