What is Sustainable Agriculture?

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Today, many farmers are turning to a method called sustainable agriculture. It’s the opposite of industrial agriculture where farmers consistently plant the same crops year after year in the same soil. This only causes depletion of the soil’s nutrients. Sustainable agriculture strives to help maintain the health of the soil by using one or more of the following methods.

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Rotating Crops

Rather than planting the same crops year after year, crop rotation involves changing which crops farmers grow in each area. Because each crop needs and uses different nutrients, it helps to keep the soil sustainable. This can help further a farmer’s capabilities of growing healthy crops for the community.

Keeping Crops in the Soil at All Times

After farmers harvest a crop, oftentimes the soil remains empty. This also can cause depletion of the soil’s nutrients. Sustainable agriculture encourages farmers to keep crops in the soil at all times. If there is a ‘lag time’ between crops and their life cycles, farmers can plant what’s called cover crops. The main job of these crops is to keep the soil healthy and fertile for the next round of crops to be planted.

Sustainable Agriculture Doesn’t Require Soil Tillage

Many farmers till their soil because it’s what they are taught to do. The teachings of sustainable agriculture, though, show us that tilling the soil only makes it weaker. It’s just another way to deplete the soil of its nutrients, which puts the vitality of the future crops at risk. Rather than tilling the land, farmers are encouraged to keep crops in the ground, using the soil as is, which allows the nutrients to remain in the soil.

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Incorporating Livestock in Farming

Crop farmers often are not animal farmers and vice versa. Today, though, combining the two processes is highly encouraged. The crops can help the livestock remain healthier and the livestock can help the crops grow faster and remain healthier. It’s a win-win for both sides and it helps farmers make more money since they don’t have to choose just one type of farming.

Avoid the Use of Toxic Chemicals

Pests are a nuisance and need to be handled in order to eliminate the risk to crops, but toxic chemicals aren’t necessary. Farmers can use other methods that are safe for crops and the people that eat them. The processes are both biological and mechanical. What works for one farmer or one crop may not work for another farmer or the same crop elsewhere.

It’s kind of like a trial and error process. Farmers are encouraged to determine what works for them and put it into practice. This way farmers can eliminate the use of toxic chemicals while preserving their farms and profits.

Sustainable agriculture isn’t as hard as it seems. It’s important for farmers to take one-step at a time as they try to implement it into their farming practice. Over time, farmers realize the difference that this farming method makes, encouraging them to continue using the practice moving forward.

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