The agriculture industry has been undergoing a massive transformation over the past few years. For decades, most foods were produced through industrial agriculture, a model characterised by large farms growing the same crops every year and using litre after litre of chemical pesticides and fertilisers that pollute soil, water and air. This kind of farming was not built to last, and wastes the resources that it depends on.
But the many farmers and science experts are carving a different path and moving toward more sustainable farming. This farming system of the future includes farms of all sizes, encourages the production of a diverse range of foods and is championed by people who are just as concerned about the environmental impact of farming as they are about profit.
What is Sustainable Farming
In simple terms, sustainable farming is the effective management of the natural resources that farms rely on. This involves:
Maintaining soil health; Planting different crops (biodiversity); Growing and harvesting sustainable food products
By working with nature instead of against it, farmers can avoid damaging practices without sacrificing profit or productivity. Here is a list of the most common sustainable farming practices:
Using Renewable Energy
One of the most important sustainable farming practices is the use of renewable energy. Solar panels, hydropower turbines and wind farms are just a few of the alternatives to conventional power sources. Each of these power-generation methods creates a lower carbon footprint than coal-based power and is dependent on resources that don't run out.
Crop rotation is an ancient farming method that has been proven to keep soil healthy. The process is simple: crops are picked in a pattern that allows the crops planted this season to restore the salt and nutrients the soil lost during the previous crop cycle. An example of this would be planting row crops such as potatoes and maize on soil that previously grew grains.
Natural Pest Control
Many birds and insects feed on the pests that ravage crops. Instead of using chemical pesticides, many farmers have started introducing ladybugs, beetles and fly parasites to their farms. These natural pest eliminators feed on mites, pest flies and other insects that destroy crops.
Polyculture is a form of farming which imitates a natural ecosystem by growing or rearing more than one plant or animal in close proximity. Polyculture farms use pest, disease and weed control methods that don't need much human intervention, minimising the need for pesticides.
While it may seem that farmers are the only ones who can contribute to sustainable food production, the ordinary citizen also has a role to play. That role is as simple as dietary diversification. Plenty of little-known plants are packed with nutrition, yet their cultivation has a relatively small impact on the environment. Introducing these future foods to your diet is not only good for your health but that of the planet. Simply put, you can eat your way to a healthier planet. It doesn't get easier or more enjoyable than that.