The industrialization of agriculture has brought significant development to agriculture over the years, countries all around the world have queued into the use of modern technologies for agricultural development.
While there is still a deficiency in the use of technology in agriculture in most developing countries, we can at least count on the fact that these countries are making progress.
Agriculture so far
In the past decades, increased farmer’s engagement in industrialized agricultural practices (through the use of chemical fertilizers, irrigation systems, herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, and mechanized technologies) has doubled agricultural productivity, despite a doubling of the world’s population within this period.
The high rate of food production has allowed for abundant food supply across the globe. We now have a relative balance between production, demand, and supply of food.
While this can be counted as a great step, we must not look away from the defeat this has brought to our target of achieving an agricultural system that has plans not only for the present but for the future. An agricultural system that preserves the soil and the environment for our current and future use.
The total dependency on industrial agriculture is becoming a big challenge owing to the fact that industrial agriculture involves majorly the outrageous use of chemicals, ranging from pesticides, fertilizers, insecticides, and non-therapeutic antibiotics.
Industrialized agriculture is highly concentrated and mechanized, relying on chemical inputs, these chemicals cause untold damages to the soil, water, and eventually air and climate.
This practice is not only a time bomb waiting to explode, but a disaster to the future of our environment and for agriculturists yet unborn.
We can’t risk promoting a system of agriculture that cares only about satisfying today’s need leaving us with nothing for tomorrow. What happens after solving today’s needs?
While many support this system maybe because we seem to be producing more and satisfying our present need, meeting the growing demand for agricultural produce and balancing the lines between the population and food demand.
We can’t afford to be selfish by not considering the future generations or the agriculture of tomorrow.
According to Global Forest Atlas, Industrial agriculture is the most significant driver of deforestation in tropical and subtropical countries, accounting for 80% of deforestation from 2000-2010. 30% of deforestation in Africa and Asia and close to 70% in Latin America.
This and many more speak volume, it is a collective call for everyone, farmers and lovers of the environment, we have to do more to save our soil and environment
We have to target a system that will reserve a less or even non-contaminated soil and environment for the future agriculturists.
It is, therefore, our collective responsibility to engage and participate in agriculture that will provide a lasting solution to the growing negative impact of industrial agriculture. Is this achievable? Yes, how do we achieve this?
The answer has been with us for ages if only we are ready to take the bold step. Sustainable Agriculture.
What is sustainable agriculture?
Sustainable agriculture encompasses a broad and vest idea of agriculture, it involves a system that recognizes the farmer’s social (A fair cooperation between farmers and the surrounding environment), economic (should be profitable) welfare, and is environment friendly.
Why Sustainable agriculture over industrial agriculture?
- Sustainable agriculture focuses not only on satisfying the present food, cultural, human, and textile need, but also without compromising the environment for future use.
- It preaches the ability to sustain the farmers, resources, and the environment by promoting agricultural practices that are profitable, environmentally friendly, easy, and preserves the value of nature. It seeks to reduce the growing industrial, agricultural practices which seem to have become the sole head of production.
- Sustainable agriculture seeks to have more organic farming than the trending chemical or industrial system, it’s a system that will rather have plants grown from decayed organic deposit than the use of fertilizers as done today.
- Sustainable agriculture means to promote soil health: why many don’t know or care less about the health of the soil, it is actually important to note that the health of the soil and its maintenance plays a key role in the outcome of our planting.
- Sustainable agriculture takes care of our current agricultural needs without compromising the chances of future generations of agriculturists to meet their needs. It tries to understand the ecosystem’s need, maintain a healthy balance between cropping and the environment.
- Its ideology is based on striking a balance between satisfying our food and other agricultural needs and keeping the environment safe for both future and current use.
- It seeks to replace fertilizers with organic manures, herbicides with weeding, deforestation with afforestation.
It encourages the use of animal dungs as manure, planting more trees, a more conservative irrigation system, and so on.
While we can’t write off the great impact of industrial agriculture on food availability, we have to strike a balance between enhancing production to meet the demand for food and maintaining a healthier environment.
This should be a priority to lovers of agriculture at all levels.
What can be done to encourage sustainable agriculture?
The idea of sustainable agriculture should be a collective responsibility. It should be preached at all levels and self-enforced among farmers.
- Government at all levels should as a matter of fact enact policies that will ensure that we maintain a safe and sustainable agricultural practice at all levels.
- As direct victims, farmers should take responsibility. Being the direct link between the soil and what it produces, farmers may experience low yield when soils are depleted, if not today, tomorrow, farmers should be encouraged, enlightened on the aftereffect of industrial farming.
- Extension workers need to do more, farmers in the rural areas should be sorted after, instead of sharing fertilizers as done in many countries, farmers should be enlightened on how to use organic manures and other natural processes that promote crop yield.
Agricultural practices that promote sustainable agriculture should be encouraged among farmers.
There are many sustainable agricultural practices we can rely on and still keep a good, satisfactory record on meeting the demand for food while maintaining a healthier environment, some of these practices include;
Sustainable agriculture practices
For decades now several sustainable farming practices have been seen among farmers, especially those in rural areas. These include;
Use of organic manure:
Manure refers to the natural substances that are derived from the decomposition of animal dung such as cow dung, crop residue such as decayed plant parts, etc.
To prepare manure, farmers collect and dump waste products of plants and animals in mostly a pit or field, for decomposition, this is achieved with the help of micro-organisms that act on the waste, a slow and steady process.
The matter obtained after decomposition is called organic manure and are used for planting. They are rich in natural nutrients though may not be as rich as their inorganic counterpart but they are healthier to the soil and the environment than the later.
Organic manures promote and preserve the natural content of the soil while adding fertility to the soil, they do not alter the soil settings in it’s bid to promote crop growth as we experience with the inorganic fertilizers.
Unaltered soils are considered to be balanced, they contain all nutrients required to grow any kind of crop, this balance is mostly altered by the activities of man.
Constant planting and land usage reduce the soil’s nutritional makeup and reduce soil fertility, this can be corrected by allowing the soil for some time to regain lost nutrients, this is called Bush Fallowing.
- Lands left for some times, contain more micro-organisms, decaying plant’s parts, animal dumps, these materials decompose into the soil and replenish already lost soil nutrients.
Different crops require different soil nutrient for their growth and development, farmers can adapt the culture of planting or growing different crops on a particular piece of land where it’s possible to practice bush farrowing as a result of the unavailability of land for farming.
This way nutrients won’t be used up with time.
Farmer can use a suitable amount of water to irrigate the plant, excessive irrigation can cause washing away of topsoil which in most cases contains the organic content of the soil.
This is the planting of different crops on the same piece of land, crop rotation improves soil fertility and reduces disease attack. It plays a significant role in reducing the effect of erosion. Crop rotation is a great step to maintaining soil fertility.
Use of cover crops.
Cover crops are crops planted during off-planting seasons when soils are left exposed to direct sunlight, these crops protect the soil external forces such as erosion, they reduce weed and replenishing soil nutrients.
Zero or Less tillage:
Tillage exposes the soil surface to external attack and can lead to the soil. Zero or reduced tillage can reduce soil surface exposure, erosion, and improve soil fertility.
Unregulated cutting down of trees experienced specifically in the urban areas should be discouraged. More trees provide sheds and organic substances for crop production.
Important of sustainable agriculture
The importance of sustainable agriculture cannot be overemphasized. The more we look at the negative impact of industrial agriculture on our food and the environment, we will understand the reason for the urgent cry for sustainable agriculture.
- Sustainable agriculture encourages biodiversity and other ecosystem services, unlike industrial agriculture.
- Sustainable agriculture encourages the use of organic products (fertilizer made from animal dumps) which are an environmental friend.
- It contributes to soil fertility, clean water systems, and a suitable environment.
- Sustainable agriculture encourages healthy soil.
- Sustainable agriculture preserves the environment and maintains eco-friendly agriculture.
Conclusively, regaining the diminishing value of our soils and the environment caused by raising dependency on industrial agriculture should be a collective responsibility, we must do our possible best to engage in a type of agriculture that satisfies our present need while preserving the value of our ecosystem for future purpose.
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