Sustainable agriculture, a solution for food scarcity
Agriculture mainly depends on natural resources such as land, water and nutrients which are becoming scarce due to the intensive agriculture and climate change. Demand of food for emerging population will be increased in future but climate change and ecosystem degradation impose new challenges for agriculture. Sustainable agriculture has an important role to play in preserving natural resources, ability to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and blocking biodiversity loss
WHAT IS sustainable agriculture? In general, ecological, economic and social aspects of agriculture are covered by sustainable agriculture. To be sustainable, agriculture can operate only when the environment, its caretakers and surrounding communities are healthy. Or simply it is described as sustainable agriculture should not be damage natural environment, at the same time it should be affordable for farmer and should fulfill societys demand. So sustainable agriculture covers three basic components; it should be economically profitable, socially responsible and ecologically strong.
It is considered that the worlds population will be up to 9.2 billion by 2050. At the same time, economic development will lead to an increase in demand for meat, dairy, vegetables and fruit. People living in hunger today are approximately one billion and it will increase by 2.5 billion after 40 years. The agricultural department is only a sector which can provide food for all. But to fulfill the future demand, we will have to boost sustainable agricultural production in developing countries.
In Pakistan farming is a critical part of the rural economy. To procure the livelihoods of rural populations there is a need to generate income opportunities for growth and poverty reduction. Effects of climate change on agriculture are very serious. Crops are exposed to quite different conditions from those that suit them best, and productivity can be soberly affected. Sustainable agriculture helps the farmers to adapt to changes and to reduce green house gas emission.
As resources are limited, the challenge is to achieve global food security without imposing a negative effect on environment and our society. Agriculture strongly depends on natural resources such as land, water and nutrients and these natural resources are becoming scarce. Due to intensive agriculture and climate change these resources are being reduced. We all knew that demand of food for emerging population will be increased in future but climate change and ecosystem degradation impose new challenges for agriculture. Sustainable agriculture has an important role to play in preserving natural resources, ability to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and blocking biodiversity loss.
Sustainable agriculture provide high yield with efficient use of natural resources and this productivity depends on many practices. Following some sustainable agricultural practices engaged by the farmers today to get the benefits of sustainable agriculture.
Efficient use of irrigation water; Water is essential for life and one of the most important natural resource in the world. Almost 70 per cent of the worlds surface water supplies are used in agriculture system. Therefore, there is a need to conserve this precious resource with implementation of sustainable practices i.e. efficient use of irrigation water by using new technologies (drip irrigation, sprinkler irrigation system, etc.) rather than traditional methods, developing drought-tolerant crops, rain water collectors and use of mulching and cover crops to retain moisture level of soil.
Agricultural scientists are proposing vertical farming as a solution to increase crop production without depleting the soil. Vertical farming is the practice of growing crops in vertical structures rather than on the soil or ground, it is also called farm scraping (farming + skyscrapers).
Physical removal of weeds is a good practice in sustainable agriculture. This might be impractical for large farms. Various agricultural machineries like automatic weeder, finger weeder, weed trimmer and many others are being used for removal of weeds from filed without using chemicals.
Managed grazing is basically a livestock rotation that moves animals to graze in different areas. This is essential for many reasons. Moving the animals means theyll have access to different pastures, which means theyll get a variety of nutrients and less exposure to parasites and dust. Managed grazing also helps with weed control and soil fertility: The manure left behind will serve as a natural fertilizer.
Keeping farms soil healthy is essential because crops get nutrients directly from soil for their optimal growth and development. According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service sustainable agriculture depends more on soil rather than on any other factors. But it doesnt mean farmers cant do anything about the health of farm soil. Tillage practices (plowing, turning and airing of the soil), leaving crop residue, organic matter (cover crops, crop rotations, manures including green manure and animal byproducts) can help to increase the fertility level of soil, with minimal use of synthetic chemicals which are destroying the natural habitats and polluting the environment.
Integrated pest management; the combination of different techniques to create an effective pest control system. Monitoring and identifying pests is the first step. Not all pests need to be eliminated. Some dont cause major damage to the crops. By using techniques like choosing pest-resistant crops, rotating crops and using beneficial insects, the risk of pests settling in is smaller. When its time to attack pests, targeted spraying is best. This means not only spraying the specific areas that are affected, but also using chemicals that target only one specific pest and dont put beneficial insects or other wildlife at risk in the process.
The writers are associated with the Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan.
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