Recent philosophies in agricultural sustainability

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For ages, study has observed sustainable agriculture as a potential way out to correct and avoid the problems related to maladministration of resources. Sustainable Farming structures are necessary for continued productivity of our lands and resource maintenance for future generations. Some predict a real sustainable steady state economy that may be poles apart from today’s significantly reduced energy usage, negligible ecological footprint, and less consumer packaged goods, native purchasing with little food supply chains, little processed foodstuffs, more home and community gardens, etc. Agriculture would be very different in this type of sustainable economy.

Sustainable Agriculture is an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific usefulness that will over the long time: (i) Conserve and enhance the quality and efficiency of the soil (ii) Save soil, water, energy, natural resources, and fish and wildlife habitat (iii) Protect health and security of persons involved in the food and farm system (iv) Proliferate employment prospects in agriculture.

Crop yield uniformities and improvements would be reached using the inexpensive, eco-friendly and feasible production system. Acquaintance of sustainability and lasting proficiency of agro-ecosystem among growers is desired through the use of advanced tools in general.

Conservation Agriculture is “a concept for resource-saving agricultural crop production that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while concurrently conserving the environment” (FAO 2007). It aids noble agronomy, such as timely operations, and improves general land husbandry for rain-fed and irrigated production. It is complemented by other known good practices, including the use of quality seeds, and integrated pest, nutrient, weed and water management, etc. Conservation Agriculture is a base for sustainable agricultural production consolidation. It unlocks bigger routes for integration of production parts, such as crop-livestock integration and the integration of trees and pastures into agricultural sceneries.

Organic Agriculture is a holistic production management system which promotes agro-ecosystem health, plus biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biotic doings. This is accomplished by using agronomic, biological, and mechanical methods, as opposite to using synthetic materials, to fulfill any specific function within the system (FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission, 1999). This can be used as a vital norm in sustainable agriculture evading the problems posed by mismanagement of resources.

Carbon Negative Technology: Biochar

Biochar is a charcoal material made from the controlled, partial combustion of biomass in oxygen free/limited environment. It halts decaying and arrests the CO2 in an effectively stable carbon stock, checking re-release to the atmosphere. It is a carbon-negative process. So, we just need to bury it as a soil amendment; biochar has positive agronomic and water quality effects.

As a soil correction, biochar makes nearly permanent carbon sinks (MRT 1,000-2,000 years); radically improves lands; and has much ecological welfare. Biochar is a carbon-negative technology, and can reduce CO2 on gigaton scales, to combat climate change. It is a unique carbon negative technology at our disposal.

Natural Resource Management involves land, water, soil, flora and fauna, with a particular emphasis of management impacts on quality of life for both current and future generations. It stresses on land use planning, water management, biodiversity conservation, and the future sustainability of industries like agriculture, fisheries, forestry mining and tourism. Integrated natural resource management is running natural resources in an orderly fashion, which contains numerous aspects of natural resource use to meet production ends of producers and users (e.g. food safety, profitability, risk aversion) in addition to goals of community (e.g., poverty mitigation, prosperity of future generations, ecological upkeep). It relies on sustainability and at same time tries to join all likely stakeholders from planning level itself, decreasing likely future encounters.

Water Management Systems include water resource provision, efficient service and stress administration which is desirable at site-specific level of agricultural system to improve the existing efficiencies of irrigation systems. It should be targeted at such irrigation systems in agronomic production that include the use of every droplet of water applied in irrigation of crops e.g. drip, sprinkler and root zone irrigation procedures.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is cautious reflection and highlights growth of a vigorous crop with least possible disturbance to agro-ecosystems and inspires natural pest control mechanisms (FAO). IPM permits safer pest control. Globalization and increased mobility allow growing numbers of invasive species to cross national limits where IPM poses the least risks whereas maximizing profits and decreasing expenses.

Systems of Rice Intensification (SRI) is a climate-resilient, agro-ecological approach for increasing the yield of rice and more recently other crops by altering management of plants, soil, water and nutrients. SRI poses reduced plant density but early and vigorous plant establishment. Soil and water conditions are better through organic matter and controlled water application.

Global Positioning Systems and Precision Agriculture are having a great impact on navigation in the agrarian industry. Depending on the receiver used, the location can be found instantly. By knowing location, farmers can look at the field as a group of small zones and decide if the field is uniform or not. Computers and geographical information systems (GIS) assist producers to record location and other information. For example, a yield monitor used with GPS permits a farmer to record yield for every location in the field. With this information practices that may increase efficiency and profitability.

Agroforestry is intercropping that comprises growing trees/shrubs alongside crops to the mutual profit of both. The system has several potential uses e.g. food security by restoring the soil fertility for food crops and clean water through reduced nutrient and soil runoff. Moreover, global warming, risk of hunger can be averted by improved crop stability and bioremediation.

Green biotechnology applied to agriculture may be exemplified by the selection and domestication of plants by micro propagation. Another case is the designing of transgenic plants to grow under specific settings in the presence/absence of chemicals. Green biotechnology might produce more eco-friendly solutions than outmoded industrial agriculture. An example of this is the engineering of a plant to express a pesticide, thus ending the requisite of exterior use of pesticides e.g. BtHYPERLINK “” corn.

Bio-fortification is a novelty to grow crops with augmented nutrients. Deficits of many micronutrients like vitamin A, Zn, and Fe is common in developing world and upsets billions. These can lead to more occurrence of blindness, a weaker immune system, stunted growth and reduced mental growth. Particularly, the rural poor tend to survive on a diet of staple crops (rice, wheat and maize) which are low in micronutrients, and most cannot afford or efficiently grow ample fruits, vegetables or meat products that are essential to gain such health level.

Principally, increasing the micronutrient levels in staple crops can help prevent and cut the micronutrient deficiencies. Bio-fortification is also equally economical after an initial large research venture where seeds can be distributed, the operational costs are negligible, as opposed to supplementation which is fairly dear and needs constant funding over time, which may be endangered by varying political concern. Golden Rice is a GM crop developed for its dietary value. The advanced version of Golden Rice has genes from a common soil bacterium Erwinia and maize, and contains greater levels of β-carotene (a precursor of vit. A).

Permaculture is an agricultural philosophy that chains several agricultural principles including agroforestry, intercropping, mulching, and rainwater catchment for sustainability. The three core doctrines of permaculture are: (i) Care for the earth (ii) Care for the people (iii) Return of surplus.

Aquaponics such as fish in a symbiotic habitat with hydroponically grown plants; a food production system that pools orthodox aquaculture (raising snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. In aquaponics, water from an aquaculture system is fed to a hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down by nitrification bacteria into nitrates and nitrites, which are utilized by the plants as nutrients. The water is then recirculating back to the aquaculture system. It is recognized that during 1150-1350 CE, Chinampas, an early farming method which used rectangular areas of fertile land to grow crops on shallow lake beds; produced one-half to two-third of the food used by the city of Tenochtitlan, including maize, squashes, amaranth, tomatoes, peppers and beans. Therefore, aquaponics might be right in claiming that the method can feed the world one day.

Renewable Energies in Agriculture can also help indigenous trades, inspire local markets and generate ample work prospects. Solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass/bio-refineries are some renewable energies. Lack of access to modern energy is usually known as the main hindrance to sustainable progress. The International Energy Agency 2010 report stated: “Lack of access to modern energy services is a serious hindrance to economic and social development and must be overcome if the UN Millennium Development goals are to be achieved.”

The World Health Organization appraisals that 1.45 million people die prematurely each year from domestic air pollution owing to inefficient biomass burning; a major proportion young kids. This is greater than early deaths from malaria or T.B. Small agro-ecological farms are preferably aided by renewable energies that can be generated and used on spot, and in off-grid sites mostly faced in emerging states.

Roof-top Farms and Urban Agriculture is food production closer to societies by growing on city tops, in small veranda plots, and in free lots is also a hopeful practice to sustainability. As stated by FAO, urban poor users spend 60-80% of their income on food, making them very vulnerable to higher food prices. Urban agriculture offers food and generates savings in domestic expenditure on consumables, hence, increasing the sum of wages allocated to other uses. The excesses can be traded in native markets, generating more income for the urban poor.

The rewards that urban agriculture carries along to cities are numerous as the conversion of cities from only consumers to generators of agricultural products adds to sustainability, better health, and poverty relief. Wastewater and organic solid waste can be transformed into resources for growing agriculture products. The use of wastewater for irrigation improves water management and upturns the availability of freshwater for drinking and domestic consumption. Bioregional ecologies can be protected from transforming into croplands. Local food production also sanctions savings in transportation and storage cost. It enhances the quality of the city milieu by greening and accordingly, a reduction in pollution.



Published in: Volume 08 Issue 34

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