10 Sustainable Agriculture Ideas for Every Farm to Try
Sustainable agriculture is a practice that has been slowly but surely developing over the past few years. As a result, more and more people are adhering to it. But what is sustainable agriculture? Well, this practice is based on an understanding that farming should not damage the environment. In fact, it should protect humans and provide them with food and fibers, and it should be animal friendly as well. Basically, if you want to start a farm with sustainable agriculture, it means that you want to produce healthy food and make sure that future generations can still do the same.
So if you do want to start your own sustainable agriculture farm, or you want to optimize your existing farm and make it more sustainable, take a look at these inspiring ideas that you should definitely try.
10 Sustainable Agriculture Ideas
Improve Soil Quality
Think about it, a good soil is what makes your farm prosper. That is why you have to pay a lot of attention to how you tend to it. If you use too many pesticides, it will also kill the insects and microbes that are actually beneficial to the soil. In order for the soil to be healthy, you should be able to find such harmless insects populating it. If you make the mistake of abusing pesticides, the soil will need a lot of fertilizer to produce crops. But if the soil is healthy, you don’t risk your crops getting attacked by pests as much. Some things you can do to improve the quality of your soil is to add animal manure, composted plant material, leave crop residues there, or plow under cover crops.
Plant Cover Crops
Speaking of cover crops, they are crops that you plant in order to protect the soil. Since the crops that you usually plant don’t grow all year round, this can cause soil erosion, a decrease in the quality of the soil, and the growing of all sorts of weeds. So if you want to avoid all that, don’t leave the soil bare. Try planting some cover crops instead. For instance, you could try planting clover, oats, or hairy vetch. An added bonus is the fact that the soil won’t need as much fertilizer, herbicides, and insecticides.
If you want to practice sustainable agriculture, it is extremely important to remember that you should rotate your crops. Don’t plant the same thing in the same place every single time. You will avoid many negative consequences. But what are these consequences? Well, first of all, you will accustom pests to constant food supply from the same crop. And this will increase their population in time. So as long as you make use of crop rotation, no plants will develop pests, because they won’t have time to complete a reproductive cycle.
If you plant vegetables such as soy beans, and next year you plant corn in the same place, the corn will benefit from the nutrients left over from the soy beans, and it will need less fertilizer.
Take Care of Natural Pest Predators
As we’ve already mentioned, sustainable agriculture relies on the understanding and preservation of the ecosystem. That means that you can rely on pest predators to help you protect your crops. There are plenty of insects, birds, bats, or spiders, that are ready to take care of crop pests for you. Sustainable farming is more effective when you learn how to take care of the population of natural pest predators growing on your farm. And that includes avoiding the overuse of pesticides, because it might kill them too in the process.
Use Biointensive Integrated Pest Management
Strongly related to what we’ve previously discussed, one of the most important goals of sustainable agriculture is to get rid of chemical pest management agents. The integrated pest management technology encourages farmers to rely on natural and biological measures of eliminating pests. Such measures involve crop rotation, natural microbes, and beneficial organisms. The ultimate goal of sustainable farming would be to stop using chemicals all together. That, or only use them when there is no other way of managing pests.
Use Renewable Energy Sources
Since one of the main goals of sustainable agriculture is to preserve the environment, it should come as no surprise that farmers should use as many renewable energy sources as possible. And that includes hydro-power, wind, and solar energy. But how can you actually use these alternative energy sources? For instance, you could install solar panels which will absorb energy from the sun and put it to good use for pumps, heaters, or whatever else you might need on your farm. If you have a running river close to your farm, you could also use its power for machines and farming equipment. Even the earth’s heat can provide you with a renewable energy source. All you have to do is use a geothermal heat pump.
Rotate Grazing Land
Another great idea that promotes sustainable farming is changing the grazing area for cattle every once in a while. But you might wonder why that is necessary. Well, the first benefit would be that the cattle will be provided with variety. It will also get plenty of nutrients from different grazing lands. Moreover, if you change the areas periodically, the land won’t get eroded as a result of getting trampled upon by cattle.
Remove Weeds Manually
This sustainable agriculture idea will only work if you have a small farm. For larger farms, it would be impossible to take the time and effort to remove weeds by hand. But if you have a small farm of your own, you could take this extra effort and avoid using machines that will only damage the environment. Plus, there are places where crops require more care and attention, or where the machines cannot properly reach the weeds. So if you have the chance of removing weeds manually, we suggest you give it a try.
Plan Water Management
The first thing you should consider before planting something on your farm is how much water the crops will need. If you already live in a dry area, select only crops that don’t need a lot of water to survive and develop. And even if you plant crops that require plenty of water, do not take advantage of the local water sources. Remember that this can lead to rivers getting depleted, or the soil getting degraded. One thing you could do is build rainwater harvesting systems and take advantage of rainwater by storing it for times when drought is threatening your crops.
If you have your own sustainable agriculture farm, you will inevitably have to deal with waste. But eliminating waste into the environment is something you should avoid at all costs. So what you can do when you have waste lying around is think of other uses for it. It is both cost effective and great for the environment. So don’t forget to be creative and think how you or other members of the community could use waste for some other purpose.
Everything Summed up
These are only a few of the sustainable agriculture ideas that you can put into practice in your farm, but they are definitely enough for you to take the first steps towards sustainable farming. So if you want to enjoy healthy products grown in your own garden, and help preserve the environment in the process, it is definitely worth looking more into the practice of sustainable agriculture. Even starting small can make a huge difference for you, the ecosystem, and future generations.