Sustainable agriculture is the ability of a farmer to produce food in such a way that the environment and surrounding ecosystem, is unaffected by their agricultural activities. There are a couple of issues that are connected with this form of agricultural activity which are the biophysical issue and social-economic issue. Biophysical is related to the biological activities such as crop rotation, usage of fertilizers and artificial nutrients and the availability of the other resources such as water, wind and sunlight whereas social-economic is concerned with the employment of farmers, the cost of production and total yield.
Talking about the physical attributes of sustainability, it is not properly understood. Most farming practices show that the end result of these practices has resulted in soil erosion, salination and water-logging. Most forests and tropical areas have lost their fertility due to over-cultivation and conventional farming techniques. These conventional farming techniques are being replaced by sustainable agriculture techniques. These techniques include usage of modern fertilizers, genetically-engineered crops, artificial nutrients and usage of renewable sources of energy.
There are many sustainable techniques for extracting nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium which are essential for plant growth. For nitrogen, we can use nitrogen-fixing bacteria’s and the Haber Process to industrially extract nitrogen from the air. As far as phosphorous and potassium are concerned, right amounts of them can be mixed with nitrogen to produce high-yielding fertilizers.
In most areas, rainfall is sufficient to cater the needs of water supply but in other areas irrigation is required. These irrigation systems should be properly utilized in order to make the best use of the water available. Channels should have proper and adequate distribution. Moreover water logging and excessive use of chemicals should be avoided as these lead to salination. Some technologies such as tube wells and water drilling have considerably increased the spread and availability of water.
Natural Resources these days are scarce and bad agriculture practices mean their extinction. Moreover, these habits also contribute a hand to pollution and damage of the ecosystem. Crops at the time of their distribution should be accounted for the sustainability equation. This means that all the expenses of crop production and distribution should be taken in account before doing the final cost benefit analysis.
There is a big debate between different businesses, farmers and scientists on making the agriculture sustainable. One of the few practices can be growing many crops in a single field. This will reduce the loss of nutrients and will eliminate the chance of soil erosion. On the other hand, climatic conditions and water resources will be best utilized. Monoculture is another method that pertains to sustainable agriculture. This process consists of growing only one crop in a field, but it’s not highly encouraged because it will result in soil losing it’s fertility overtime.
Over-grazing is also one factor that is contributing to soil erosion. This factor’s impact can be greatly reduced by introducing a sustainable approach known as grazing management that include dividing grazing area into paddocks which are easy to manage and takes less space.
The sustainable agriculture does affect the overall food yield and it needs to increase because of ever-increasing world population but these techniques sometimes do negatively affect the environment e.g. usage of fertilizers use to eutrophication and burning of forests to clear land for cultivation may lead to carbon dioxide emissions. Some exponents who favour sustainable agriculture agree on using organic farming. Although this technique yields comparatively low but can be used as an alternative in those areas which are drought-pronged. It’s an expensive method but if people are educated about the usage of this technique, then there are fair chances that it will be used widely and new techniques will be introduced which will increase the output in future.
Another recent ideas that has flocked in market to achieve sustainability demands the introduction of vertical farms which will isolate the crop from pests, provide full year production and on-site production. Again, cost is the major concern which disallows this sustainable agriculture technique.
We can simply deduce the fact that sustainable agriculture is the need if modern world but considerations are to be made as the implementation of these techniques is not quite feasible and requires some thought. Although, really beneficial this technique still remains a dream for under-developed and developing nations.