01 November, 2021
7 Min Read
Context: This topic is important for UPSE GS Paper 3.
Crop rotation is one of the most powerful techniques of sustainable agriculture. Its purpose is to avoid the consequences that come with planting the same crops in the same soil for years in a row. It helps tackle pest problems, as many pests prefer specific crops. If the pests have a steady food supply, they can greatly increase their population size.
Rotation breaks the reproduction cycles of pests. During rotation, farmers can plant certain crops, which replenish plant nutrients. These crops reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.
Permaculture is a food production system with intention, design, and smart farming to reduce waste of resources and create increased production efficiency. Permaculture design techniques include growing grain without tillage, herb and plant spirals, hugelkultur garden beds, keyhole and mandala gardens, sheet mulching, each plant serving multiple purposes, and creating swales on contour to hold water high on the landscape.
It focuses on the use of perennial crops such as fruit trees, nut trees, and shrubs all together to function in a designed system that mimics how plants in a natural ecosystem would function.
Many farmers choose to have crops planted in a field at all times and never leave it barren; this can cause unintended consequences. By planting cover crops, such as clover or oats, the farmer can achieve his goals of preventing soil erosion, suppressing the growth of weeds, and enhancing the quality of the soil. The use of cover crops also reduces the need for chemicals such as fertilizers.
Soil is a central component of agricultural ecosystems. Healthy soil is full of life, which can often be killed by the overuse of pesticides. Good soils can increase yields as well as help create more robust crops.
It is possible to maintain and enhance the quality of the soil in many ways. Some examples include leaving crop residue in the field after a harvest, and the use of composted plant material or animal manure.
In order to maintain effective control over pests, it is important to view the farm as an ecosystem as opposed to a factory. For example, many birds and other animals are, in fact, natural predators of agricultural pests.
Managing your farm so that it can harbour populations of these pest predators is effective as well as a sophisticated technique. The use of chemical pesticides can result in the indiscriminate killing of pest predators.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an approach, which essentially relies on biological as opposed to chemical methods. IMP also emphasizes the importance of crop rotation to combat pest management.
Once a pest problem is identified, IPM will ensure that chemical solutions will only be used as a last resort. Instead, the appropriate responses would be the use of sterile males and biocontrol agents such as ladybirds.
This technique is similar to crop rotation that tries to mimic natural principles to achieve the best yields. It involves growing multiple crop species in one area. These species often complement each other and helps produce a greater diversity of products at one plot while fully utilizing available resources.
High biodiversity makes the system more resilient to weather fluctuations, promotes a balanced diet and applies natural mechanisms for maintaining soil fertility.
Agroforestry has become one of the powerful tools of farmers in dry regions with soils susceptible to desertification. It involves the growth of trees and shrubs amongst crops or grazing land, combining both agriculture and forestry practices for long-lasting, productive, and diverse land use when approached sustainably.
Trees have another important role that maintains the favourable temperature, stabilizes soils and soil humidity, minimizes nutrient runoff and protects crops from wind or heavy rain. Trees in this farming system are additional sources of income for farmers with the possibilities for product diversification.
Biodynamic farming incorporates ecological and holistic growing practices based on the philosophy of “anthroposophy.” It focuses on the implementation of practices such as composting, application of animal manure from farmed animals, cover cropping or rotating complementary crops for generating the necessary health and soil fertility for food production.
Biodynamic practices can be applied to farms that grow a variety of produce, gardens, vineyards, and other forms of agriculture.
The first step in water management is the selection of the right crops. Local crops that are more adaptable to the weather conditions of the region are selected. Crops that do not demand too much water must be chosen for dry areas.
There should be well-planned irrigation systems; otherwise, other issues like river depletion, dry land and soil degradation will develop.
The application of rainwater harvesting systems by storing rainwater can be used in drought prevailing conditions. Apart from that, municipal wastewater can be used for irrigation after recycling.
Relay cropping is a method of multiple cropping where one crop is seeded into a standing the second crop well before harvesting of the second crop. Relay cropping may solve a number of conflicts such as inefficient use of available resources, controversies in sowing time, fertilizer application, and soil degradation.
The environment plays a huge role in fulfilling our basic needs to sustain life. In turn, it is our duty to look after the environment so that future generations are not deprived of their needs. Sustainable farming helps to replenish the land as well as other natural resources such as water and air.
By adopting sustainable practices, farmers will reduce their reliance on non- renewable energy, reduce chemical use and save scarce resources. This replenishment ensures that these natural resources will be able to sustain life for future generations considering the rising population and demand for food.
Modern agriculture is heavily dependent on non- renewable energy sources, especially petroleum. Sustainable agricultural systems have reduced the need for fossil fuels or non renewable energy sources and a substitution of renewable sources or labour to the extent that is economically feasible.
Sustainable agriculture avoids hazardous pesticides and fertilizers. As a result, farmers are able to produce fruits, vegetables, and other crops that are safer for consumers, workers, and surrounding communities. Through careful and proper management of livestock waste, sustainable farmers can protect humans from exposure to pathogens, toxins, and other hazardous pollutants.
Sustainable agriculture means that any waste a farm produces remains inside the farm’s ecosystem. In this way, the waste cannot cause pollution.
Agricultural activities affect air quality by smoke from agricultural burning; dust from tillage, traffic and harvest; pesticide drift from spraying; and nitrous oxide emissions from the use of nitrogen fertilizer.
In sustainable farming, there are options to improve air quality by incorporating crop residue into the soil, using appropriate levels of tillage, and planting windbreaks, cover crops or strips of native perennial grasses to reduce dust.
Our continued ability to produce adequate food has been a serious threat to soil erosion. Therefore, numerous practices have been developed to keep soil in place, which includes reducing or eliminating tillage, managing irrigation to reduce runoff, and keeping the soil covered with plants or mulch.
Selection of suitable species and varieties that are well suited to the site and conditions on the farm can improve crop yield and diversification of crops (including livestock), and cultural practices enhance the biological and economic stability of the farm.
Sustainable agriculture lessens the overall costs involved in farming. Smarter farming and moving food from farm-to-fork in a more efficient manner have helped everyone involved with the agriculture industry. IoT data from sensors installed in everything from seed drills, sprayers, and spreaders to drones, satellite imagery, and soil make it so surprises become rarities.
Sustainable farms produce a wide variety of plants and animals, resulting in biodiversity. During crop rotation, plants are seasonally rotated, and this results in soil enrichment, prevention of diseases, and pest outbreaks.
Sustainable agriculture includes sustainable livestock production by selecting appropriate animal species, animal nutrition, reproduction, herd health, grazing management, which leads to the overall development of livestock for the long term.
Sustainable farming results in animals being better cared for, as well as treated humanely and with respect. The natural behaviors of all living animals, including grazing or pecking, are catered for. As a result, they develop in a natural way. Sustainable farmers and ranchers implement livestock husbandry practices that protect animals’ health.
In exchange for engaging with sustainable farming methods, farmers receive a fair wage for their produce. This greatly reduces their reliance on government subsidies and strengthens rural communities. Organic farms typically require 2 ½ times less labour than factory farms yet yield 10 times the profit.
Practicing sustainable agriculture techniques also benefits workers as they are offered a more competitive salary as well as benefits. They also work in humane and fair working conditions, which include a safe work environment, food, and adequate living conditions.
Sustainable farming reduces the need for the use of non-renewable energy resources and, as a result, benefits the environment.
Due to population increase, it is estimated that by 2050 we will need approximately 70% more food than is currently being produced in order to provide the estimated 9.6 billion world population with their recommended daily calorie intake. This is by no means a small challenge, but unlike many other sustainability challenges, everyone can play a part.
We all need to eat, but by simply reducing food loss and waste, as well as eating diets that are of lower impact, and investing in sustainable produce, we can make a difference. From countries to companies, right down to consumers, we all have a role to play. The challenge is simply making people care in a world where we are surrounded by such abundance.
Strip cropping, as seen in the U.S., is when wheat is grown along with corn and soyabean, in the same farm in an alternative manner
A paper has appeared recently in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA(PNAS) titled: “Integrated farming with intercropping increases food production while reducing environmental footprint”
This work found that:
(1) “relay planting” enhances yield,
(2) within-field rotation or “strip rotation”, allowing strips for planting other plants (such as grass, fruits) besides the major crop was more fruitful,
(3) “soil munching,” that is, available means such as crop straw, in addition to the major crop such as wheat or rice, and
(4) “no-till” or reduced tillage, which increases the annual crop yield up by 15.6% to 49.9%, and decreases the environmental footprint by 17.3%, compared with traditional monoculture cropping.
This led to the conclusion that small farm holders can grow more food and have a reduced environmental footprint.
How do these factors apply to the small farmers of India?
Relay planting means the planting of different crops in the same plot, one right after another, in the same season.
Examples of such relay cropping would be planting rice (or wheat), cauliflower, onion, and summer gourd (or potato onion, lady’s fingers and maize), in the same season.
However, there are some challenges to relay planting such as mechanization becomes difficult and requires arduous management tasks.
These four methods suggested by the international group are worth following in India.
In the rising threat of climate change and land acquisition for development, to ensure food security, per hectare productivity has to be increased by adopting sustainable ways and best global practices as mentioned above.
Source: The Hindu
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