What’s the Difference Between Conventional Agriculture & Sustainable Agriculture?
Our current model of agriculture is highly detrimental to our health – as well as the health of the planet. Here is what you should know about moving towards a more sustainable agriculture model.
When it comes to human impact on the environment, few human activities create as many environmental problems as agriculture. From dead and depleted soils that will no longer grow food crops without massive inputs of chemical fertilizers, to poisoned rivers and streams, to “dead zones” in the oceans caused by agricultural runoff, agriculture is taking a massive toll on our world.
Obviously, the human race as we know it could not survive without agriculture, so what is the answer?
The problem is not the fact of agriculture, but the method. What is now known as “conventional” agriculture (I prefer the term “industrial,” which I feel describes it more aptly) has only been around for just over a century – a blink of an eye in the span of the human race – yet it has caused untold damage to the planet during that time.
To be fair, transitioning from this model to a more sustainable type of agriculture can be very expensive – and most farmers aren’t known for their wealth! But with some innovation and cooperation between private and government groups, a solution must be found to this growing crisis.
Industrial agriculture is the most commonly practiced form of agriculture in the modern world, and it pays little attention to environmental issues, or its role in the ecosystem. Here are a few other characteristics of conventional/industrial agriculture:
- It consumes high quantities of energy and water. Its focus is concentrated only on the economic aspects of farming;
- It uses man-made chemical fertilizers, which deplete and poison soils;
- Pests are chemically controlled often doing harm to water sources and animal life in the process;
- It employs small cages to house animals and often force-feeds them;
- Heavy irrigation is used to water crops, depleting aquifers and local water supplies;
- The same crops are planted over and over on the same land leading to the depletion of nutrients and spread of disease;
- To the detriment of both consumers and the environment, hormonal supplements are fed to many food animals.
Obviously, a more sustainable model of agriculture is imperative if we are to continue thriving as a species on this planet.
Here is a bit more information about sustainable agriculture and food production:
Sustainable agriculture takes into account the promotion of biodiversity, recycling of resources, promoting ecological balance and much more. It also takes into account the locality of the farm and the existing conditions on the ground. Profitability remains a goal of sustainable farming but environmental health and social equity find their rightful place in this system.
Here are a few solutions that sustainable agriculture practices can help provide – and actions that we can take to develop this important model and start getting us back on a healthier track – for the sake of ourselves and the planet:
- Storage, reduction of water use and the quality of water are ecological considerations which can be implemented;
- Conserve energy and the use of resources by using hydropower, the wind, and solar power;
- Encourage biodiversity where a variety of organisms and insects can live in healthy conditions;
- Keep bees to help with pollination;
- Use sustainable methods to enhance the natural fertility of your farm including crop rotation and natural compost resources…;
- Training of candidate farmers should aid the making of decisions which maximize production and profit;
- Plant crops which complement each other. What one type of plant removes from the soil another may re-establish;
- Avoid soil erosion by keeping the soil healthy. Natural fertilizers and cover crops help in this regard;
- Shelters created by farmers of birds, insects, and bats can be helpful to avoid crop pests;
- Hand weeding is the happy alternative for pesticides that go beyond that leaves a footprint after killing the weeds.
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