SPOTLIGHT SERIES

April

SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE

Sustainable Agriculture in 2020

Agriculture is one of the most important industries on the planet and it often places significant pressure on natural resources and the environment. Sustainable agricultural practices are intended to protect the environment by promoting methods and practises that are environmentally sound while at the same time protecting public health.

Over the last few decades, our environment has become an area of great concern.  This has led us to innovate and employ alternate methods in order to save the environment. One such initiative is sustainable farming. Sustainable farming is the production of food, plants and animal products using farming techniques that prove to be beneficial in a number of ways- ecologically, economically and overall better for human health.   In an effort to reduce our environmental footprint and negative impacts on the environment, there are a number of farming practises and techniques being utilized today.  

Benefits of Sustainable Farming

1. Environment Preservation

2. Economic Profitability

3. Most efficient use of non-renewable resources

4. Protection of Public Health

5. Social and Economic Equity

Here are two methods of sustainable agriculture being utilized today.

Vertical Farming

Vertical farming refers to plants being grown vertically- instead of farming vegetables and other foods on a single level, such as in a field, this method produces foods in vertically stacked layers commonly integrated into other structures such as buildings. It involves using farming methods, such as hydroponics and aeroponics.  This way of farming was based on a vision of cities and high rises being transformed into vertical fields.  Vertical farming has many advantages for rural living, big cities are able to utilize vertical farming and cultivate food, produce fibre and other plant-based products.  

Advantages

  • It offers a plan to handle future food demands

  • It allows crops to grow year-round

  • It uses significantly less water

  • Weather doesn't affect the crops

  • More organic crops can be grown

  • There is less exposure to chemicals and disease

Disadvantages

  • It could be very costly to build and economic feasibility studies haven't yet been completed

  • Pollination would be very difficult and costly

  • It would involve higher labor costs

  • It relies too much on technology and one day of power loss would be devastating

Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative Agriculture increases biodiversity, enriches soil, maximizes water use efficiency thus enhancing ecosystems. 

Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming practices that focuses heavily on soil health and pays extra attention to water management and fertilizer use, in an attempt to to rehabilitate and enhance the entire ecosystem of the farm. According to Rodale Institute, regenerative agriculture "is a method of farming that “improves the resources it uses, rather than destroying or depleting them”.

Regenerative agriculture improves ecosystem function and builds resilience gradually over time by enhancing natural ecosystem processes.  By minimize physical disturbance of the soil and increasing levels of soil organic matter farmers are creating healthier, more resilient environments for plants to thrive, while keeping more carbon where it belongs- this in turn supports productivity.

Soil Health

Soil is a complex ecosystem that forms the base of the food chain for humans and all land animals. Soil also plays an essential role in balancing the earth’s ecosystem and our climate. Healthier soil can hold more water, increase resilience to floods and droughts, supply more nutrients to plants, and purify water.

Water

Crops, animals and communities rely on clean water to flourish. Regenerative agriculture helps maximize water use efficiency in rain-fed and irrigated systems. In addition to water utilization, these same practices can reduce agriculture’s impact on water quality, helping to protect and restore clean water in nearby streams, rivers and lakes.

Biodiversity

A variety of plans are needed to create rich, nutrient-dense soil to have more productive yields.  Different plants release different carbohydrates (sugars) through their roots, and various microbes feed on these carbs and return all sorts of different nutrients back to the plant and the soil. 

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