Sustainable agriculture is farming in sustainable ways (meeting society's food and textile needs in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs) based on an understanding of ecosystem services, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment. It is a long-term methodological structure that incorporates profit, environmental stewardship, fairness, health, business and familial aspects on a farm setting. It is defined by 3 integral aspects which are: economic profit, environmental stewardship and social responsibility. Sustainability focuses on the business process and practice of a farm in general, rather than a specific agricultural product. The integrated economic, environmental, and social principles are incorporated into a “triple bottom line” (TBL); when the general impacts of the farm are assessed. Unlike a traditional approach where the profit-margin is the single major factor; Agriculture sustainability is also involved with the social and environmental factors.
The phrase 'sustainable agriculture' was reportedly coined by the Australian agricultural scientist Gordon McClymont. Wes Jackson is credited with the first publication of the expression in his 1980 book New Roots for Agriculture. The term became popular in the late 1980s.
It has been defined as "an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will last over the long term", for example to satisfy human food and fiber needs, to enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends, to make the most efficient use of non-renewable and on-farm resources and integrate natural biological cycles and controls, to sustain the economic viability of farm operations, and to enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.
There are several key principles associated with sustainability in agriculture:
Sustainable agriculture can be understood as an ecosystem approach to agriculture. Practices that can cause long-term damage to soil include excessive tilling of the soil (leading to erosion) and irrigation without adequate drainage (leading to salinization). Long-term experiments have provided some of the best data on how various practices affect soil properties essential to sustainability. In the United States a federal agency, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, specializes in providing technical and financial assistance for those interested in pursuing natural resource conservation and production agriculture as compatible goals.
The most important factors for an individual site are climate, soil, nutrients, and water. Of the four, water and soil quality and quantity are most amenable to human intervention through time and labor. When farmers grow and harvest crops, they remove some nutrients from the soil. Without replenishment, land suffers from nutrient depletion and becomes either unusable or suffers from reduced yields. Sustainable agriculture depends on replenishing the soil while minimizing the use or need of non-renewable resources, such as natural gas (used in converting atmospheric nitrogen into synthetic fertilizer), or mineral ores (e.g., phosphate). Possible sources of nitrogen that would, in principle, be available indefinitely, include:
More realistic, and often overlooked, options include long-term crop rotations, returning to natural cycles that annually flood cultivated lands (returning lost nutrients indefinitely) such as the flooding of the Nile, the long-term use of biochar, and use of crop and livestock landraces that are adapted to less than ideal conditions such as pests, drought, or lack of nutrients. Crops that require high levels of soil nutrients can be cultivated in a more sustainable manner with appropriate fertilizer management practices.
In some areas sufficient rainfall is available for crop growth, but many other areas require irrigation. For irrigation systems to be sustainable, they require proper management (to avoid salinization) and must not use more water from their source than is naturally replenishable. Otherwise, the water source effectively becomes a non-renewable resource. Improvements in water well drilling technology and submersible pumps, combined with the development of drip irrigation and low-pressure pivots, have made it possible to regularly achieve high crop yields in areas where reliance on rainfall alone had previously made successful agriculture unpredictable. However, this progress has come at a price. In many areas, such as the Ogallala Aquifer, the water is being used faster than it can be replenished.
Several steps must be taken to develop drought-resistant farming systems even in "normal" years with average rainfall. These measures include both policy and management actions:
Indicators for sustainable water resource development are:
Soil erosion is fast becoming one of the world's severe problems. It is estimated that "more than a thousand million tonnes of southern Africa's soil are eroded every year. Experts predict that crop yields will be halved within thirty to fifty years if erosion continues at present rates." Soil erosion is occurring worldwide. The phenomenon is being called peak soil as improper soil management techniques in some areas of the world are jeopardizing humanity's ability to grow food in the present and in the future. Without efforts to improve soil management practices, the availability of arable soil will become increasingly problematic. Intensive agriculture reduces the carbon level in soil, impairing soil structure, crop growth and ecosystem functioning, and accelerating climate change. Soil management techniques include no-till farming, keyline design, windbreaks to reduce wind erosion, incorporating carbon-containing organic matter back into fields, reducing chemical fertilizers, and protecting soil from water run-off.
Phosphate is a primary component in chemical fertilizer. It is the second most important nutrient for plant after nitrogen, and is often a limiting factor. It is important for sustainable agriculture as it can improve soil fertility and crop yields. Phosphorus is involved in all major metabolic processes including photosynthesis, energy transfer, signal transduction, macromolecular biosynthesis, and respiration. It is needed for root ramification and strength and seed formation, and can increase disease resistance.
Phosphorus is found in the soil in both inorganic and organic forms and makes up approximately 0.05% of soil biomass. However, only 0.1% of that phosphorus present can be absorbed by plants. This is due to poor solubility and phosphorus' high reactivity with elements in the soil such as aluminum, calcium, and iron, causing the phosphorus to be fixed. Long-term use of phosphate-containing chemical fertilizers cause eutrophication and deplete soil fertility, so people have looked to other sources.
An alternative is rock phosphate, a natural source already in some soils. In India, there are almost 260 million tons of rock phosphate. However, rock phosphate is a non-renewable resource and it is being depleted by mining for agricultural use: reserves are expected to be exhausted in 50–100 years; peak phosphorus will occur in about 2030. This is expected to increase food prices as phosphate fertilizer costs increase.
A way to make rock phosphate more effective and last longer is to implement microbial inoculants such as phosphate-solubilizing microorganisms, known as PSMs. A source of these PSMs is compost or the recycling of human and animal waste. Specific PSMs can be added to soil. These solubilize phosphorus already in the soil and use processes like organic acid production and ion exchange reactions to make that phosphorus available for plants. When these PSMs are present, there has been an increase in crop growth, particularly in terms of shoot height, dry biomass, and grain yield.
Phosphorus uptake is even more efficient with the presence of mycorrhizae in the soil. Mycorrhiza is a type of mutualistic symbiotic association between plants and fungi, which are well-equipped to absorb nutrients, including phosphorus, in soil. These fungi can increase nutrient uptake in soil where phosphorus has been fixed by aluminum, calcium, and iron. Mycorrhizae can also release organic acids that solubilize otherwise unavailable phosphorus.
As the global population increases and demand for food increases, there is pressure on land resources. In land use planning and management, considering the impacts of land use changes on factors such as soil erosion can support long-term agricultural sustainability, as shown by a study of Wadi Ziqlab, a dry area in the Middle East where farmers graze livestock and grow olives, vegetables, and grains.
Looking back over the 20th century shows that for people in poverty, following environmentally sound land practices has not always been a viable option due to many complex and challenging life circumstances. Currently, increased land degradation in developing countries may be connected with rural poverty among smallholder farmers when forced into unsustainable agricultural practices out of necessity.
Land is a finite resource on Earth. And although expansion of agricultural land can decrease biodiversity and contribute to deforestation, the picture is complex; for instance, a study examining the introduction of sheep by Norse settlers (Vikings) to the Faroe Islands of the North Atlantic concluded that, over time, the fine partitioning of land plots contributed more to soil erosion and degradation than grazing itself.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that in coming decades, cropland will continue to be lost to industrial and urban development, along with reclamation of wetlands, and conversion of forest to cultivation, resulting in the loss of biodiversity and increased soil erosion. Many tools will be called upon to offset these projections. In Europe, one such tool is a geo-spatial data system called SoilConsWeb which is being developed to inform soil conservation minded decision making within agricultural sectors and other areas of land management.
Energy is used all the way down the food chain from farm to fork. In industrial agriculture, energy is used in on-farm mechanisation, food processing, storage, and transportation processes. It has therefore been found that energy prices are closely linked to food prices. Oil is also used as an input in agricultural chemicals. The International Energy Agency projects higher prices of non-renewable energy resources as a result of fossil fuel resources being depleted. It may therefore decrease global food security unless action is taken to 'decouple' fossil fuel energy from food production, with a move towards 'energy-smart' agricultural systems including renewable energy. The use of solar powered irrigation in Pakistan has come to be recognized as a leading example of energy use in creating a closed system for water irrigation in agricultural activity. Crop drying may utilize solar energy where permissible and cost-effective.
Socioeconomic aspects of sustainability are also partly understood. Regarding less concentrated farming, the best known analysis is Netting's study on smallholder systems through history.
Given the finite supply of natural resources at any specific cost and location, agriculture that is inefficient or damaging to needed resources may eventually exhaust the available resources or the ability to afford and acquire them. It may also generate negative externality, such as pollution as well as financial and production costs. There are several studies incorporating these negative externalities in an economic analysis concerning ecosystem services, biodiversity, land degradation and sustainable land management. These include The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity study led by Pavan Sukhdev and the Economics of Land Degradation Initiative which seeks to establish an economic cost benefit analysis on the practice of sustainable land management and sustainable agriculture.
The way that crops are sold must be accounted for in the sustainability equation. Food sold locally does not require additional energy for transportation (including consumers). Food sold at a remote location, whether at a farmers' market or the supermarket, incurs a different set of energy cost for materials, labour, and transport.
Pursuing sustainable agriculture results in many localized benefits. Having the opportunities to sell products directly to consumers, rather than at wholesale or commodity prices, allows farmers to bring in optimal profit.
Triple bottom line frameworks (including social and environmental aspects alongside the financial) show that a sustainable company can be technologically and economically feasible. For this to happen, growth in material consumption and population need to be slowed down and there has to be a drastic increase in the efficiency of material and energy use. To make that transition, long- and short-term goals will need to be balanced enhancing equity and quality of life.
What grows where and how it is grown are a matter of choice. Two of the many possible practices of sustainable agriculture are crop rotation and soil amendment, both designed to ensure that crops being cultivated can obtain the necessary nutrients for healthy growth. Soil amendments would include using locally available compost from community recycling centers. These community recycling centers help produce the compost needed by the local organic farms.
Using community recycling from yard and kitchen waste utilizes a local area's commonly available resources. These resources in the past were thrown away into large waste disposal sites, are now used to produce low cost organic compost for organic farming. Other practices includes growing a diverse number of perennial crops in a single field, each of which would grow in separate season so as not to compete with each other for natural resources. This system would result in increased resistance to diseases and decreased effects of erosion and loss of nutrients in soil. Nitrogen fixation from legumes, for example, used in conjunction with plants that rely on nitrate from soil for growth, helps to allow the land to be reused annually. Legumes will grow for a season and replenish the soil with ammonium and nitrate, and the next season other plants can be seeded and grown in the field in preparation for harvest.
Monoculture, a method of growing only one crop at a time in a given field, is a very widespread practice, but there are questions about its sustainability, especially if the same crop is grown every year. Today it is realized to get around this problem local cities and farms can work together to produce the needed compost for the farmers around them. This combined with growing a mixture of crops (polyculture) sometimes reduces disease or pest problems but polyculture has rarely, if ever, been compared to the more widespread practice of growing different crops in successive years (crop rotation) with the same overall crop diversity. Such methods may also support sustainable weed management in that the development of herbicide-resistant weeds is reduced. Cropping systems that include a variety of crops (polyculture and/or rotation) may also replenish nitrogen (if legumes are included) and may also use resources such as sunlight, water, or nutrients more efficiently (Field Crops Res. 34:239).
Replacing a natural ecosystem with a few specifically chosen plant varieties reduces the genetic diversity found in wildlife and makes the organisms susceptible to widespread disease. The Great Irish Famine (1845–1849) is a well-known example of the dangers of monoculture. In practice, there is no single approach to sustainable agriculture, as the precise goals and methods must be adapted to each individual case. There may be some techniques of farming that are inherently in conflict with the concept of sustainability, but there is widespread misunderstanding on effects of some practices. Today the growth of local farmers' markets offer small farms the ability to sell the products that they have grown back to the cities that they got the recycled compost from. This will help move people away from the slash-and-burn or slash-and-char techniques that are the characteristic feature of shifting cultivation. These are often cited as inherently destructive, yet slash-and-burn cultivation has been practiced in the Amazon for at least 6000 years. Serious deforestation did not begin until the 1970s, largely as the result of Brazilian government programs and policies.
There are also many ways to practice sustainable animal husbandry. Some of the key tools to grazing management include fencing off the grazing area into smaller areas called paddocks, lowering stock density, and moving the stock between paddocks frequently.
The increased production of nourishment while simultaneously contributing a positive effect on natural and social investment; is a prospect of sustainable agriculture. Sustainable Intensification encompasses specific agriculture methodologies that increase production and at the same time help in improving environmental outcomes. The desired outcomes of the farm are achieved without the need for more land cultivation or destruction of natural habitat; the system performance is upgraded with no net environmental cost. Sustainable Intensification has become a priority for the United Nations as of late; the goal is to create an interrelation between agriculture and landscape. Sustainable intensification differs from prior intensification methodologies by placing specific importance on broader environmental and social outcomes. The concept of SI has been gaining traction across farms on the globe. By the year 2018; it was predicted in 100 nations a combined total of 163 million farms adopted an agriculture substitution-redesign threshold because of the utilization of SI concepts. The amount of agricultural land covered by this is 453 million ha of land.That amount of land is equal to 29% of farms worldwide. In light of concerns about food security, human population growth and dwindling land suitable for agriculture, sustainable intensive farming practises are needed to maintain high crop yields, while maintaining soil health and ecosystem services. The capacity for ecosystem services to be strong enough to allow a reduction in use of synthetic, non renewable inputs whilst maintaining or even boosting yields has been the subject of much debate. Recent work in the globally important irrigated rice production system of east Asia has suggested that - in relation to pest management at least - promoting the ecosystem service of biological control using nectar plants can reduce the need for insecticides by 70% whilst delivering a 5% yield advantage compared with standard practice.
Soil steaming can be used as an ecological alternative to chemicals for soil sterilization. Different methods are available to induce steam into the soil in order to kill pests and increase soil health.
Solarizing is based on the same principle, used to increase the temperature of the soil to kill pathogens and pests.
Certain crops act as natural biofumigants, releasing pest suppressing compounds. Mustard, radishes, and other plants in the brassica family are best known for this effect. There exist varieties of mustard shown to be almost as effective as synthetic fumigants at a similar or lesser cost.
A farm that is able to "produce perpetually", yet has negative effects on environmental quality elsewhere is not sustainable agriculture. An example of a case in which a global view may be warranted is over-application of synthetic fertilizer or animal manures, which can improve productivity of a farm but can pollute nearby rivers and coastal waters (eutrophication). The other extreme can also be undesirable, as the problem of low crop yields due to exhaustion of nutrients in the soil has been related to rainforest destruction, as in the case of slash and burn farming for livestock feed. In Asia, specific land for sustainable farming is about 12.5 acres which includes land for animal fodder, cereals productions lands for some cash crops and even recycling of related food crops. In some cases even a small unit of aquaculture is also included in this number (AARI-1996).
Sustainability affects overall production, which must increase to meet the increasing food and fiber requirements as the world's human population expands to a projected 9.8 billion people in 2050. Increased production may come from creating new farmland, which may ameliorate carbon dioxide emissions if done through reclamation of desert as in Israel and Palestine, or may worsen emissions if done through slash and burn farming, as in Brazil.
There is not a lot of data on the environmental and health costs that are caused by agriculture influence on other segments; the misuse of natural resources is one such example. These undesirable outcomes are labeled as externalities. Their costs are not part of market prices because they are non-market issues. Negative externalities occur because of market failures, where a contaminator is penalized for the damaged caused to the environment; these costs that are never paid are external costs. In the agriculture sector, these externalities have four aspects: the cost of them is ignored by the unlawful party; they happen within long intervals; susceptible populations with little to no political or decision altering power are negatively affected; the source of the external factor is not always deduced. This lack of concise information flow means that the economic cost of the externalities is debated in the agricultural industry. As a result of this, modern agriculture has contributed to increased environmental and health issues; documented cases of these issues are nations such as, Ecuador, China, Germany, the Philippines, the UK, as well as the USA. These developments have made nations contemplate what the best and most efficient systems of agriculture are. In the Philippians for example, methodologies free of pesticide contribute to net social benefits. Externalities of pesticide use in China are responsible for 1.4 billion dollars cost per year because of the increased need for health services to the general population; as well as negative impacts on biodiversity. Another example is in Ecuador, where 21 individuals out of 100,000 are killed because of pesticide use. An integrated pest management system was introduced; stopping the negative health effects and at the same time creating economic profit. Based on all these aforementioned examples and notions; all agricultural plans have an environmental cost on some basic level. This can be used to deduce the methods that are sustainable and the ones that are not. Agricultural sustainability thus depends on size of the area and the standards of that specific location; an effective baseline needs to be implemented for agricultural sustainability to function. An agricultural procedure may be sustainable if the externalities are low; however, this definition does not encompass all the values in the procedure and the potential effect that those values may have on the available resources.
As the Earth is entering the Anthropocene, an epoch characterized by human impacts such as climate change, agriculture and agricultural development are at risk. Agriculture has an enormous environmental footprint, and is simultaneously leading to huge amounts of environmental changes globally and being hugely impacted by these global changes. Additionally, if the human population increase cannot be slowed (e.g. with better provision of family planning) a massive increase in food production will be required. This is complicated by the fact that the Earth is undergoing rising amounts of environmental risks. Sustainable agriculture provides a potential solution to enable agricultural systems to feed a growing population while successfully operating within the changing environmental conditions.
In 2007, the United Nations reported on "Organic Agriculture and Food Security", stating that using organic and sustainable agriculture could be used as a tool to reach global food security without expanding land usage and reducing environmental impacts. Another way to define sustainable agriculture is to give attention to the "human and environmental aspects," because of the turn to a more unsustainable way of farming in U.S. agriculture. During the Great Depression in the United States many farming families were living in subhuman and hungry conditions and treated "sustainability as a resource-input and food-output equation." Though conditions have improved, the farming has not as much done so. There has been evidence provided by developing nations from the early 2000s stating that when people in their communities are not factored into the agricultural process that serious harm is done. Although global food security would most likely not drastically fall, these practices would impact, first hand, local, rural farming communities, making them unable to feed themselves and their families. The social scientist Charles Kellogg has stated that, "In a final effort, exploited people pass their suffering to the land." This turn to more unsustainable farming has seen suffering for many people. For if something is sustainable, it should be that way in all aspects of it, not just the crop yield or soil health. It has been seen in the developing country of Bangladesh, the starving of rural farming communities due to their unsustainable farming methods. Sustainable agriculture mean the ability to permanently and continuously "feed its constituent populations."
There are a lot of opportunities that can increase farmers’ profits, better communities, and continue sustainable practices. For example, in Uganda Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) were originally illegal, however, under stressful circumstances where Banana Bacterial Wilt (BBW) has the potential to wipe out 90% of yield they decided to explore GMOs as a possible solution. Therefore, as a result of the banana crisis in Uganda caused by the BBW, the government issued the National Biotechnology and Biosafety bill which will allow scientists that are part of the National Banana Research Program to start experimenting with genetically modified organisms. This effort has the potential to help local communities because a significant portion live off the food they grow themselves and it will keep their economy in check because their main sources of produce will remain stable.
Women in the agriculture sustainability scene come from numerous backgrounds; including academic and labour-experience settings. The interrelations of the environment, public policy, people’s behaviour, finance, as well as the earth in general; are all aspects of sustainability that women in the field recognize as important to feed the world.In the past 30 years (1978-2007) in the United States the number of women farm operators has tripled. Today, women operate 14 percent of farms, compared to five percent in 1978. Much of the growth is due to women farming outside the "male dominated field of conventional agriculture". In community supported agriculture women represent 40 percent of farm operators, and 21 percent of organic farmers. With the change of laws in land ownership over the past century, women are now allowed all the same freedom of land ownership that men have.
Sustainable agriculture has become a topic of interest in the international policy arena, especially with regards to its potential to reduce the risks associated with a changing climate and growing human population.
The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, as part of its recommendations for policy makers on achieving food security in the face of climate change, urged that sustainable agriculture must be integrated into national and international policy. The Commission stressed that increasing weather variability and climate shocks will negatively affect agricultural yields, necessitating early action to drive change in agricultural production systems towards increasing resilience. It also called for dramatically increased investments in sustainable agriculture in the next decade, including in national research and development budgets, land rehabilitation, economic incentives, and infrastructure improvement.
Most agricultural professionals agree that there is a "moral obligation to pursue [the] goal [of] sustainability." The major debate comes from what system will provide a path to that goal. Because if an unsustainable method is used on a large scale it will have a massive negative effect on the environment and human population. The best way to create policy for agriculture is to be free of any bias. A good review would be done with "practical wisdom," a virtue identified by Aristotle, distinguishing practical wisdom from scientific knowledge, this coming from Nichomachean Ethics. The science of agriculture is called "agronomy", the root of this word relating to scientific law. Although agriculture may not fit well under scientific law, and may not be designed to be treated as an Aristotelian scientific knowledge, but more practical wisdom. Practical wisdom requires recognition of past failures in agriculture to better attain a more sustainable agricultural system.
The use of available city space (e.g., rooftop gardens, community gardens, garden sharing, and other forms of urban agriculture) for cooperative food production may be able to contribute to sustainability. A recent idea (2014) is to create large, urban, technical facilities for Vertical farming. Potential advantages include year-round production, isolation from pests and diseases, controllable resource recycling, and reduced transportation costs.
Increasing threats of climate change have influenced cities and public officials are thinking more proactively about the ways they can deliver services and food more efficiently. The environmental cost of transportation could be avoided if people take back their connection to fresh food. This raises questions; however, about the excess environmental costs associated with local farming vs more large scale operations which offer food security around the world.
There are several key debates involving sustainable agriculture:
The main debate on how sustainable agriculture might be achieved centers around two different approaches: an ecocentric approach and a technocentric approach. The ecocentric approach emphasizes no- or low-growth levels of human development, and focuses on organic and biodynamic farming techniques with the goal of changing consumption patterns, and resource allocation and usage. The technocentric approach argues that sustainability can be attained through a variety of strategies, from the view that state-led modification of the industrial system like conservation-oriented farming systems should be implemented, to the argument that biotechnology is the best way to meet the increasing demand for food.
There are different scientific communities that are looking at the topic of sustainable agriculture through two separate lenses: multifunctional agriculture (MFA) and ecosystem services (ES). While both of these frameworks are similar, they look at the function of agriculture in different lights. Those that employ the multifunctional agriculture philosophy focus on farm-centered approaches, and define function as being the outputs of agricultural activity. The central argument of MFA is that agriculture has other functions aside from the production of food and fiber, and therefore agriculture is a multifunctional enterprise. These additional functions include renewable natural resource management and conservation of landscape and biodiversity. On the other hand, ES focuses on service-centered approaches, and defines function as the provision of services to human beings. Specifically, ES posits that individuals and society as a whole receive benefits from ecosystems, which are called ecosystem services. Within the field of sustainable agriculture, the services that ecosystems provide include pollination, soil formation, and nutrient cycling, all of which are necessary functions for the production of food.
Since World War II, dominant models of agriculture in the United States and the entire national food system have been characterized by a focus on monetary profitability at the expense of social and environmental integrity.
In sustainable agriculture, changes in lower rates of soil and nutrient loss, improved soil structure, and higher levels of beneficial microorganisms are not quick. The changes are not immediately evident to the operator when using sustainable agriculture. In conventional agriculture the benefits are easily visible with no weeds, pests, etc. and the "process of externalization" hides the costs to soil and ecosystems around it. A major barrier to sustainable agriculture is the lack of knowledge of its benefits. Many benefits are not visible, so they are often unknown.
Not all geographic regions lend themselves easily to sustainable agriculture. While all parts of the world with human population need food to survive, many of these places are located in climates that make food production difficult. In Nunavik, which is located in northern Canada, it was discovered that the sustainable agricultural development needed to provide its native population with better nutrition would be difficult to adopt due to the regions isolation and arctic climate. Sustainable agriculture in regions where resources are scarce can be difficult due to the restrictions on the productive abilities of the area. Certain areas lack fertile soil to grow crops, others lack the technology to produce models for sustainability, and some do not have enough water for agricultural upkeep.
The technological advancement of the past few decades have allowed access to these areas and the means to develop sustainable agriculture in some of these previously obstructed regions. The implementation of greenhouses has been an effective method in overcoming the geographic barriers in certain parts of the world. For example, Nepal has implemented greenhouses to deal with its high altitude and mountainous regions. Greenhouses have also been used to provide sustainable agriculture to arid climates in places such as Africa and Mexico. Greenhouses allow for greater crop production because of increased humidity and also use less water since it is a closed system.
Desalination techniques have been developed to allow greater access to fresh water in areas that have historically had limited access. The desalination process turns salt water into fresh water and will allow the irrigation of crops to continue without making a harmful impact on the water supply. While desalination can prove to be an effective tool to provide fresh water to areas that need it to sustain agriculture, it requires money and resources. regions of China have been considering large scale desalination in order to increase access to water, but the current cost of the desalination process makes it impractical.
Even though most of farmers who were interviewed accepted the notion climate change was happening; just a small segment believed that it was human related. Few farmers thought that the issue of climate change was significant enough to diminish what was causing it. Some of the farmers were worried that a suggested carbon pollution reduction plan would incorporate the agricultural sector into it. As well, farmers where suspicious of numerous government related activities; seeing them as methods in which the government could punish producers.Efforts toward more sustainable agriculture are supported in the sustainability community, however, these are often viewed only as incremental steps and not as an end. Some foresee a true sustainable steady state economy that may be very different from today's: greatly reduced energy usage, minimal ecological footprint, fewer consumer packaged goods, local purchasing with short food supply chains, little processed foods, more home and community gardens, etc.
Agroecology is the study of ecological processes applied to agricultural production systems. Bringing ecological principles to bear in agroecosystems can suggest novel management approaches that would not otherwise be considered. The term is often used imprecisely and may refer to "a science, a movement, [or] a practice". Agroecologists study a variety of agroecosystems. The field of agroecology is not associated with any one particular method of farming, whether it be organic, integrated, or conventional, intensive or extensive. However, it has much more in common with organic and integrated farming.Analog forestry
Analog forestry is an approach to ecosystem restoration that considers the process of forest formation and the functioning of forest services to be critical in establishing a sustainable ecosystem characterised by a high biodiversity to biomass ratio. Design is produced through a synthesis of traditional and scientific knowledge. It seeks to optimise the productive potential of the design rather than maximise the production of one crop and to maximise ecosystem services by increasing the volumetric mass of the photosynthetic component.
Analogue forestry draws design input not only from traditional models but also from the natural forest successional dynamics. When an ecosystem is designed to be analogous to the indigenous climax state, the efficiency and dynamics of the natural processes can be replicated. These quasi-natural forests are designed to mimic the structural and functional aspects of indigenous forests and are referred to as analog forests. In addition to their ecological characteristics, analog forests are also designed to provide economic benefits. However, it is not until all the ecological requirements of the location are satisfied that economic values of species are considered. Therefore, an analog forest may comprise natural and exotic species in any proportion, the contribution to structure and function being the overriding factor that determines its use.
The theoretical underpinnings began in 1978 in San Diego and Guatemala, It was first implemented in Sri Lanka around 1981 by Ranil Senanayake as an alternative to monocultures of Pinus and Eucalyptus and has spread to India, Vietnam, Philippines, Australia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, Canada, Kenya and Zimbabwe at present.
The International Analog Forestry Network (IAFN) is currently hosted in Costa Rica.
Analog forestry is a system of silviculture that seeks to design, plan and manage ecosystems dominated by woody perennials. It has been primarily employed in tropical or subtropical areas, but can be used in temperate areas too. The design seeks to mimic the architectural structure and ecological function of the preexisting climax vegetation of the area, and can be designed to provide economic, social and environmental benefits.
Analog forestry always considers the inclusion of non-crop native species to be considered in the design and thus addresses the inclusion of native biodiversity in the design. As analog forestry also requires the inclusion of long-lived species of trees in the design it has the capacity to sequester carbon for a longer time than plantation forestry. Analogue forestry has the potential to produce very high values of photosynthetic biomass as its design calls for the inclusion of all the growth forms that occupy the three-dimensional space of the mature indigenous forest. By including many species of crops in one area analog forestry helps spread the risk of market failure on a single crop.Animal-free agriculture
Animal-free agriculture consists of farming methods that do not use animals or animal products. Animal-free growers do not keep domesticated animals and do not use animal products such as farmed animal manures or animal parts (bone meal, blood meal, fish meal). Emphasis is placed on using green manures instead.
Animal-free farming may use organic or non-organic farming techniques. However, most detailed discussions of animal-free agriculture currently focus on animal-free organic variants.Applied Research Institute–Jerusalem
The Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ; Arabic: معهد الابحاث التطبيقية - القدس) is a Palestinian NGO founded in 1990 with its main office in Bethlehem in the West Bank. ARIJ is actively working on research projects in the fields of management of natural resources, water management, sustainable agriculture and political dynamics of development in the Palestinian Territories.Ecological thinning
Ecological thinning is a silvicultural technique used in forest management that involves cutting trees to improve functions of a forest other than timber production.
Although thinning originated as a man-made forest management tool, aimed at increasing timber yields, the shift from production forests to multifunctional forests brought with it the cutting of trees to manipulate an ecosystem for various reasons, ranging from removing non-native species from a plot to removing poplars growing on a riverside beach aimed at recreational use.
Since the 1970s, leaving the thinned trees on the forest floor has become an increasingly common policy: wood can be decomposed in a more natural fashion, playing an important role in increasing biodiversity by providing habitat to various invertebrates, birds and small mammals. Many fungi (e.g. Calocera viscosa) and mosses are saproxylic or epixylic as well (e.g. Marchantiophyta) – some moss species completing their entire life-cycle on a single log.
Where trees are managed under a commercial regime, competition is reduced by removing adjacent stems that exhibit less favourable timber quality potential. When left in a natural state trees will "self-thin", but this process can be unreliable in some circumstances. Examples of this can be found in the Buxus – Ironbark forests and woodlands of Victoria (Australia) where a large proportion of trees are coppice, resultant from timber cutting in decades gone by.Fresh (2009 film)
Fresh is a 2009 documentary film directed by Ana Sofia Joanes. The film focuses on sustainable agriculture, and depicts farmers, activists and entrepreneurs who are changing America's food system.Garden sharing
Garden sharing or urban horticulture sharing is a local food and urban farming arrangement where a landowner allows a gardener access to land, typically a front or back yard, in order to grow food.
This may be an informal, one-to-one relationship, but numerous Web-based projects exist to facilitate matchmaking. In some cases, garden sharing projects are launched as a way to shorten community garden waiting lists that are common in many cities.Good agricultural practice
Good agricultural practice (GAP) are specific methods which, when applied to agriculture, create food for consumers or further processing that is safe and wholesome. While there are numerous competing definitions of what methods constitute good agricultural practice there are several broadly accepted schemes that producers can adhere to.Integrated farming
Integrated Farming - UNI 11233-2009 new European agriculture organic standard (IF), integrated production or Integrated Farm Management is a whole farm management system which aims to deliver more sustainable agriculture. It is a dynamic approach which can be applied to any farming system around the world. It involves attention to detail and continuous improvement in all areas of a farming business through informed management processes. Integrated Farming combines the best of modern tools and technologies with traditional practices according to a given site and situation. In simple words, it means using many ways of cultivation in a small space or land.Intercropping
Intercropping is a multiple cropping practice involving growing two or more crops in proximity. The most common goal of intercropping is to produce a greater yield on a given piece of land by making use of resources or ecological processes that would otherwise not be utilized by a single crop.Organic horticulture
Organic horticulture is the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants by following the essential principles of organic agriculture in soil building and conservation, pest management, and heirloom variety preservation.
The Latin words hortus (garden plant) and cultura (culture) together form horticulture, classically defined as the culture or growing of garden plants. Horticulture is also sometimes defined simply as “agriculture minus the plough.” Instead of the plough, horticulture makes use of human labour and gardener’s hand tools, although some small machine tools like rotary tillers are commonly employed now.Outline of organic gardening and farming
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to organic gardening and farming:
Organic farming – alternative agricultural system that relies on fertilizers of organic origin such as compost, manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting. Biological pest control, mixed cropping and the fostering of insect predators are encouraged. In general, organic standards are designed to allow the use of naturally occurring substances while prohibiting or strictly limiting synthetic substances.Outline of sustainable agriculture
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to sustainable agriculture:
Sustainable agriculture – applied science that integrates three main goals, environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. These goals have been defined by a variety of philosophies, policies and practices, from the vision of farmers and consumers. Perspectives and approaches are very diverse, the following topics intend to help understanding what sustainable agriculture is.Overgrazing
Overgrazing occurs when plants are exposed to intensive grazing for extended periods of time, or without sufficient recovery periods. It can be caused by either livestock in poorly managed agricultural applications, game reserves, or nature reserves. It can also be caused by immobile, travel restricted populations of native or non-native wild animals. However, "overgrazing" is a controversial concept, based on equilibrium system theory.
It reduces the usefulness, productivity, and biodiversity of the land and is one cause of desertification and erosion. Overgrazing is also seen as a cause of the spread of invasive species of non-native plants and of weeds. It is caused by nomadic grazers in huge populations of travel herds, such as the American bison of the Great Plains, or migratory Wildebeests of the African savannas, or by holistic planned grazing.Prime farmland
Prime farmland is a designation assigned by U.S. Department of Agriculture defining land that has the best combination of physical and chemical characteristics for producing food, feed, forage, fiber, and oilseed crops and is also available for these land uses.Rainforest Alliance
The Rainforest Alliance is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) working at the intersection of business, agriculture, and forests to make responsible business the new normal. Based in New York City and Amsterdam, with offices throughout the world, it operates in more than 60 countries. It was founded in 1987 by Daniel Katz, who serves on its board of directors, and is currently led by CEO Han de Groot.Slash-and-char
Slash-and-char is an alternative to slash-and-burn that has a lesser effect on the environment. It is the practice of charring the biomass resulting from the slashing, instead of burning it. The resulting residue matter charcoal can be utilized as biochar to improve the soil fertility.In that context, charcoal can be made by numerous and varied methods, from the simplest (an earth cover on the pile of wood, with strategically placed vents) to the most sophisticated (a modern equipment or plant that recuperates and processes strictly all exhaust gases into pyroligneous acid and syngas).
Slash-and-char offers considerable benefits to the environment when compared to slash-and-burn.It results in the creation of biochar, which can then be mixed with biomass such as crop residues, food waste, or manure, and buried in the soil to bring about the formation of terra preta. Terra preta is one of the richest soils on the planet – and the only one known to regenerate itself.
It moreover sequesters considerable quantities of carbon in the safest and most beneficial fashion, as opposite to the negative effects of the slash-and-burn. Switching to slash-and-char can sequester up to 50% of the carbon in a highly stable form.
The nascent carbon trading market that sponsors CO2 sequestration projects, could therefore help supplement the farmers' income while supporting a decrease in the pace of deforestation and the development of a more sustainable agriculture.Soil conservation
Soil conservation is the prevention of soil loss from erosion or prevention of reduced fertility caused by over usage, acidification, salinization or other chemical soil contamination.
Slash-and-burn and other unsustainable methods of subsistence farming are practiced in some lesser developed areas. A sequel to the deforestation is typically large scale erosion, loss of soil nutrients and sometimes total desertification. Techniques for improved soil conservation include crop rotation, cover crops, conservation tillage and planted windbreaks, affect both erosion and fertility. When plants, especially trees die, they decay and become part of the soil. Code 330 defines standard methods recommended by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. Farmers have practiced soil conservation for millennia. In Europe, policies such as the Common Agricultural Policy are targeting the application of best management practices such as reduced tillage, winter cover crops, plant residues and grass margins in order to better address the soil conservation.Political and economic action is further required to solve the erosion problem. A simple governance hurdle concerns how we name and value the land and what we call it and this can be changed by cultural adaptation.Yarding
In poultry keeping, yarding is the practice of providing the poultry with a fenced yard in addition to a poultry house. Movable yarding is a form of managed intensive grazing.
Yarding is often confused with free range. The distinction is that free-range poultry are either totally unfenced, or the fence is so distant that it has little influence on their freedom of movement.
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