Modern agriculture: Practices, challenges and opportunities
Everything in universe is changing and these changes have positive or negative impacts on surrounding. Agriculture is an important occupation of majority in the world. Almost everyone is attached with agriculture directly or indirectly. People used to grow crops and rear animals for food, feed and fiber since ancient times. With the passage of time, needs of people climbed enormously. Agriculture is also changing and becoming advance with every passing day. Agricultural operations are more innovative and modern now and quiet dissimilar from conventional agriculture. Previously, tilling of soil was done with bullocks and seeds were dispersed with hands. At that time farming was very simple, a person grows crops for grains to feed his family and fodder for animals. Farmer worked on their land to produce crops for their own domestic use. They tended to plant a variety of crops so that they became self-sufficient. Milk, meat, vegetables and eggs were available on farm. Ground water was used for drinking and irrigation purposes. Yields were lesser than the present levels. Farmers practiced the barter system. By doing so, they were able to exchange the agricultural products with other farmers. Soils were dark colored with high organic matter. Incidence of diseases in plants and animals were not much frequent. Environment was pure, healthy and safe due to absence of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. This old scenario does not prevail anymore because of skyrocketing increase in population, urbanization, industrialization and rising desire for better and modern life style.
Modern agriculture is the need of the present time. It covers all the advancements applied in agriculture to increase per unit production of food. To fulfil the needs of millions of people, modern agriculture is necessary. Simply organic farming cannot meet the requirements of this world. Modern agriculture ensures maximum production which requires heavy use of mechanization and inputs. From sowing, the process is started, in modern agriculture; intensive tillage at frequent basis is required. The topsoil is fertile layer that provides nutrients to crop plants, thats why it is necessary to shuffle the soil before sowing. It is essential for maximum production to cut and invert the soil and make fine seed bed for successful germination of seeds. Fertility levels of soil are becoming low because of high cropping intensity. In ancient times a piece of land had 25% cropping intensity but now worldwide average cropping intensity is 100-150%. Soils required fallow periods and restorative crops after cultivation of exhaustive crops like cotton and sugarcane but it is not practiced. Modern agriculture deviates from basic principles of crop rotation.
Exploitation of natural resources is a foremost negative aspect of modern agriculture. As this type of farming mainly focus on mono-cropping and it creates insect pest attacks, disease incidence and development of weed flora, Herbicides and insecticides resistance, micronutrient deficiency and ultimate reduction in crop productivity. Modern agriculture relies on synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, soil conditioners and plant growth regulators; these all chemicals are murderous for soil sustainability and biological life and a threat to environment. Farmers use these synthetic products vigorously for quick control against problematic agents to their crops. There is no reluctance among farmers for the use of these poisonous products because no one focuses on nature conservation. Soils have been degraded due to soil erosion, intensive tillage and non-judicious use of machinery. Excessive use of chemicals badly affected soil microorganisms and also pollutes the ground and surface water. Meat and dairy farming is also produced at sub-standard levels. High use of synthetic feeds and growth regulators are used to fulfill requirements. Utilization of such synthetic products in plants as well as in livestock animals at higher amount is immoral and has worse effects on human health. There are a number of diseases caused due to high use of pesticides, herbicides and growth regulators.
GHGs emission is also due to non-judicious exploitation of natural resources. Global temperature is increasing furiously, glacier and melting and floods are coming. Rainfall patterns are also changing results in droughts and floods. Modern agriculture mainly focuses on resource exploitation, energy exploration, production enhancement and profit maximization. Food quality management, protection of environment, economic stability, moral obligations, system stability and conservation of natural resources has been given secondary importance. This is injustice with community and upcoming generation.
No doubt, modern agriculture is the need of time for feeding the increasing population. But there are some pragmatic approaches that can help in this regard. There should adoption of resource conservation technologies and adopt sustainable measures. There should proper use of synthetic chemicals along with manual, mechanical and cultural practices to get rid of insect pests. For water conservation laser land leveling, mulching and cover crops should used. Deforestation should discourage because for wild life forests are the only habitat. Shelterbelts should grow on field borders. Use of organic products, manures and composts should encourage. Integrated approaches must be adopted because we cannot slow down the increasing population but we can reduce the use of harmful products. Integrated pest management (IPM), integrated disease management (IDM) integrated weed management (IWM) integrated nutrient management (INM) can be helpful in sustaining environment and agriculture. Awareness must provoke in farming communities. Improved agricultural practices (ICPs), On-farm management practices (OMPs), good agricultural practices (GAPs) are collectively key to success and must be adopted. Extension workers and researchers should promote resource conservation and media should help to spread this. For better production in a safe and naturally preserved system, collective efforts from institutions, research teams and farming community are needed.
The writers are associated with the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan.
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