More than any other, the farming industry is under the watchful eye of sustainability activists. Despite the industry’s importance to people’s daily lives, it is an area with much room for improvement. Based on estimates by the United Nations, the world’s population will hit 9.7 billion by 2050, which is less than 30 years away. A population of that size will require 70% more food production in the next three decades.
Considering the sustainability of current farming practices, that seems like a tall order at first glance. Fortunately, there’s a solution to this: eco-friendly farming through sustainable farming practices. Eco-friendly farming aims to feed humanity without depleting the earth’s natural resources. This post explores five sustainable, eco-friendly farming practices to help reach this goal. But first, let’s define it and determine whether it makes a difference.
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What is Sustainable Farming?
sustainable farming practices ensure profitability, environmental health, and social and economic equity while meeting the needs of current and future generations. It favors techniques that mimic nature-preserving soil fertility, preventing water pollution, and preserving biodiversity. It also helps achieve global objectives such as the Sustainable Development Goals and Zero Hunger.
Can Sustainable Farming Make Environmental Difference?
Yes, it can. Compared to conventional farming, organic farming uses up to 56% less energy and generates 64% fewer greenhouse gas emissions per hectare.
Listed below are five eco-friendly, sustainable farming practices:
1. Hydroponics and Aquaponics
These innovative farming techniques involve growing plants without soil and nourishing them with water that contains specialized nutrients. A hydroponic system involves growing crops with their roots directly in mineral solutions or in an inert medium like gravel or perlite. Aquaponics involves raising aquatic animals like fish and growing plants in hydroponics.
The nutrient-rich water from aquaculture waste nourishes the plants grown in hydroponic systems. After the plants absorb the water, the water purifies and recirculates to reuse by the fish. The methods that promote sustainable farming come in various sizes, from small home ones to large commercial ones.
2. Using Renewable Energy Sources
Climate change is humanity’s greatest threat. Fossil fuel consumption and agricultural activities are two of the most significant contributors to climate change because they release greenhouse gases that cause global warming. But what if you combine renewable energy with sustainable agriculture to find a solution? Agrovoltaics does just that.
Agrovoltaic energy comprises using the same land for agricultural and solar energy production. Therefore, crops and solar panels coexist on the same surface. As crops receive less light, they have reduced productivity — though some can benefit. Higher energy production makes up for this. Based on a study by Nature, 1% of arable land could produce solar energy, enough to offset the world’s energy demands.
Also, solar energy in agricultural areas promotes photovoltaic self-consumption since you can use solar panel electricity to power farms. Agrovoltaics has close connections with smart farming, which takes advantage of artificial intelligence, big data, and the Internet of Things. As a result, they develop smart villages.
Agrovoltaics reduces greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, which significantly benefits the environment. Additionally, dual-use of the land reduces the impact of expanding cultivation areas on ecosystems and biodiversity, which are adversely affected by the expansion of cultivation.
Agroforestry is a powerful tool for farmers in dry regions with soils vulnerable to desertification. When conducted sustainably, it involves growing trees and shrubs amongst crops and grazing lands. It results in long-lasting, productive, and diverse land use. Trees preserve an ideal temperature and soil moisture by creating a favorable microclimate while preventing wind and rain from damaging crops. It does not limit the role of trees to this.
By stabilizing soil and minimizing nutrient runoff, they also improve the overall structure of soils. Farmers in this farming system can also earn income from wood and fruits as additional sources of revenue. You can even grow a whole edible forest.
4. Urban Agriculture
Most studies estimate that most of the world’s population will live in cities in the future. Therefore, urban agriculture can potentially affect how we produce food worldwide significantly. Because of recent requirements to localize food systems, growing food closer to home, even in cities, would be best.
Therefore, many are already applying several innovative, sustainable growing techniques in cities. This category includes backyard and community gardens, rooftop farms, indoor hydroponic farms, urban greenhouses, and possibly even urban farm towers that grow food.
5. Biodynamic Farming
Biodynamics integrates ecological and holistic growing practices based on anthroposophy philosophy. Biodynamic practices can benefit farmers, gardeners, vineyards, and other farming practices. This farming creates a resilient ecosystem by replenishing soil fertility with plants, animals, and beneficial insects that support one another’s health.
Biodynamic farming principles aim to create health and soil fertility on-site through composting, applying animal manure from farmed animals, planting cover crops, and rotating complementary crops. It is essential to work with the natural phenomena of the cosmos during different lunar and solar cycles to influence the soil, plants, and animals’ health.
Each of these practices reduces food and water waste, saves energy, and restores the soil. After learning more about these eco-friendly, sustainable farming practices, you can now integrate minor changes into your daily life to help the cause. You can reduce your environmental impact and support future agriculture by composting, buying organic, and purchasing food close to its source.