The article will explain 7 ways to make farming more eco-friendly.
How to make farming more eco-friendly?
If you want to make farming more eco-friendly, read below:
- Organic farming
- Water conservation
- Conservation tillage
- Crop rotation
- Waste reduction
- Renewable energy sources
- Natural pest methods
- What are the challenges linked to eco-friendly farming practices?
Agriculture has been the backbone of human civilisation for millennia. It has provided nourishment and sustenance to the ever-growing human population. In the past, agricultural practices were eco-friendly and required low inputs but that has changed in modern times.
Modern agriculture is responsible for soil degradation, destruction of the environment, loss of biodiversity and water pollution. It is essential that eco-friendly farming practices must be adopted in order to preserve the environment while meeting the growing food demand.
Eco-friendly farming is not limited to farms on a large scale but can be done on a smaller scale like in home yards, community gardens, and schools. Some sustainable farming practices include the following.
Organic farming involves agricultural production while preserving natural resources, sustainable environmental practices and maximum level of biodiversity and better animal welfare. The use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides is prohibited, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) cannot be used.
Natural fertilisers like manure and compost are used and crops are kept in a rotation to improve soil health. This form of farming also helps preserve soil fertility, reduce soil erosion, and improve biodiversity. This causes crops to be more nutritious and livestock is also healthier.
Organic farming methods can help sequester carbon compared to conventional farming which makes it a powerful tool for fighting against climate change. The use of fossil fuels is reduced as organic farming does not require the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers which usually require fossil fuels during the manufacturing process.
Organic kitchen gardening is much easier on a smaller scale and many people prefer producing their own food. Although the culture has declined significantly in the last few decades but is gaining traction again in recent years.
Fresh water has become a very precious resource in recent times, and it is essential to conserve it as much as possible. A large amount of water is used in food production worldwide.
Farmers can utilise techniques such as mulching, drip irrigation, and harvesting rainwater to reduce water usage. Many countries are moving towards these practices as water scarcity is becoming a real issue and may contribute to future famines.
Mulching requires covering the soil with organic materials such as straws and leaves in order to reduce soil erosion and retain moisture in the soil. In drip irrigation, water is applied directly to the plant roots which improves the health of the plant and reduces water wastage.
Harvesting rainwater involves a collection of water in storage tanks and later utilised for irrigation.
These conservation practices ultimately reduce the hefty costs of irrigation which can save a lot of money for the farmers while conserving water.
On a smaller scale, the costs of the equipment are also significantly less and affordable for people that are growing their own food. But care has to be taken as water in homes may be chlorinated and may impact the fruits or vegetables if not treated.
This is a farming method which involves leaving the previous crop’s residue on the field which eventually gets decomposed by microorganisms in the soil and releases nutrients from the residue. This method helps improve soil quality and reduces soil erosion while adding organic matter to the soil.
Conservation tillage also helps trap carbon and nitrogen under the soil which helps reduce greenhouse gases and reduces the need of use of more fertilisers. This is also economically beneficial to the farmers as it brings down the costs of using tractors to plough the fields, and buying expensive tillage equipment, fuel, and labour costs.
It is a sustainable method of cropping in which different crops are planted on the same piece of land in a planned sequence. This helps with weed suppression, pest infestation and reduction in soil erosion. It also interrupts the life cycle of different diseases and assists in controlling them.
Different crops have different requirements. Crop rotation ensures that the necessary nutrients are available for each crop. Some common crops in the rotation include legumes which help fix nitrogen in the soil and then subsequently used by the next crop that requires nitrogen to grow.
By rotating crops, farmers can reduce the need for synthetic fertilisers, maximise the use of nutrients, and improve soil fertility. Both small and large farms can practise crop rotation and help reduce damage to the environment and promote sustainable agriculture.
It requires planning in advance in order to maximise the advantages at both small and large scales.
Crop residue and animal manure are often wasted by farmers, especially in third-world countries. Farmers often use slash and burn followed by ploughing the fields after each crop which contributes to air pollution, and loss of carbon and nitrogen into the environment eventually contributing to global warming.
Farmers can reuse crop residue and animal manure by compositing and using them as natural fertilisers. This in turn would reduce the need for fertilisers in the long run. This would help contribute to a sustainable eco-friendly farming system.
People who do not have access to animal manure can make their own compost at home by using leftovers, peels, eggshells etc. and adding worms that will turn it into vermicompost.
Renewable Energy Sources
Greenhouse gases are a major issue in agriculture and conventional agricultural practices significantly utilise fossil fuels in large quantities. Fossil fuels are also depleting at a rapid rate and the reserves will eventually run out. Moving to green sources of energy is imperative.
Farmers can use solar panels and wind turbines to generate clean energy on their farms. Farming equipment relies heavily on electricity and fuel which are unsustainable. Switching to renewable forms of energy can help reduce greenhouse emissions and energy costs significantly.
At homes, solar panels in addition can help reduce bills of electricity.
Natural pest methods
Chemical pesticides have been proven to be harmful to the environment and human health. Every year, pesticides are sprayed in large quantities to protect crops from attacks. The excess use of these pesticides is causing the environment to degrade and also killing pollinators such as honeybees in the process.
Building up diversity around agricultural lands can help with pest control. Keeping crops in a rotation on different fields each year helps pests from building up.
Other natural pest deterrents include planting trees such as Neem which repels pests. Neem oil can be produced from them and sprayed on crops as well. Beneficial predators such as ladybugs, bats and birds can also help reduce the pest population in the fields, reducing costs and making it a sustainable practice.
What are the challenges related to eco-friendly farming?
While eco-friendly farming offers numerous advantages, it is not without its challenges.
Sustainable farming often requires a significant investment upfront for equipment, training, and infrastructure. It relies heavily on natural resources such as soil, water, and biodiversity.
Yields are lower when compared to conventional farming. Many people who are used to older methods resist change and require a significant shift in mindset. They are often sceptical of change. Politics and regulations pose a challenge. There are often restrictions and a lack of support for sustainable practices.
Conventional and large-scale agriculture is favoured and also subsidised. Market access is also another issue as eco-friendly products are expensive to produce, and consumers are not willing to pay higher prices for them. Certifications and labels for sustainable farming are also required in some places which may be difficult for farmers to obtain.
There are many ways in which farming can be made eco-friendly. It ranges from the use of natural fertilisers, crop diversity and conservation tillage and efficient methods of irrigation. Integrated pest management can also help reduce the negative impact of farming on the environment.
Despite the challenges, eco-friendly farming has several benefits, including reducing environmental pollution, improving soil health, and promoting biodiversity.
To overcome the challenges of eco-friendly farming, farmers need to be willing to invest in the necessary resources, adopt new techniques and approaches, and work together to promote sustainable agriculture.
Consumers can also play a crucial role by supporting eco-friendly farming practices and demanding sustainable products.
By adopting these sustainable practices, farmers can maintain high crop yields and increase profitability while reducing the negative impact of agriculture on the environment. It is essential that these eco-friendly practices are promoted sooner in order to ensure the preservation of natural resources and provide healthy food to future generations.
- Altieri, M. A., & Nicholls, C. I. (2017). Agroecology: a pathway to sustainable agriculture. In Sustainable Agriculture Reviews 25 (pp. 1-29). Springer.
- Gomiero, T., Pimentel, D., & Paoletti, M. G. (2011). Environmental impact of different agricultural management practices: conventional vs. organic agriculture. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences, 30(1-2), 95-124.
- Lal, R. (2020). Soil health and climate change. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 84(6), 1551-1565.
- Montgomery, D. R. (2017). Growing a revolution: bringing our soil back to life. WW Norton & Company.
- National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. (2022). Conservation tillage. Retrieved from https://sustainableagriculture.net/our-work/conservation-tillage/
- United Nations Environment Programme. (2018). Sustainable food systems: the role of agriculture. Retrieved from https://www.unep.org/resources/report/sustainable-food-systems-role-agriculture