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Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Agriculture

on Tuesday, 04 October 2011. Posted in Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable agriculture is aimed at producing substancial yields of produce, while mainting and enhancing the health of the farmed land and the environment in general.


The ideal of sustainable agriculture is to address nutrient and food shortages around the globe, while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions according to the UK's environmental policy.


While farmers are doing their best to make the most of their farmland, and provide the best crops possible, intensive farming methods often still fall short of environmental policies by excessive use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and fossil fuels to work machinery.


Traditional Approaches

At present, three main methods are implemented to approach sustainable farming, namely monocultures, polycultures and so-called crop rotation.


Monocultures This method concentrates on the same crops being cultivated on a particular piece of land. While this method is relatively cost-effective and requires low maintenance, it can result in deteriorating quality of the crops, as the nutrients necessary for its growth are gradually depleted over sucessive years.


Polycultures Here, several crops that are mutually supportive are simultaneously grown within the same section of land. Mutual support may, for instance, consist of an aphid-predator attracting plant being used to support a crop plagued by aphids, thereby reducing the need to use pesticides. While this is ultimately the best, most environmentally sustainable option, it does happen to be the least popular approach as far as farmers are concerned.


Crop Rotation As the name suggests, this method involves rotation of crops, meaning different crops are cultivated on a stretch of land in successive years. This approach avoides the land being drained of nutrients, as each different crop requires different nutrients and those not being used in any particular year are allowed to replenish themselves. The development of crop specific diseases is also avoided to a greater extent.


Additional Measures

While all of these approaches are certainly viable methods of sustaining crops, only the polyculture specifically addresses wider environmental sustanability. Unfortunately, and this is the reason it is so unpopular, polycultures are also the least rewarding method in an economical sense.


In order to be successful, sustainable agriculture has to be environmentally sustainable, as well as being profit driven and cost-effective. This means that new technologies, making less use of fossil fuels, chemicals, etc, have to be implemented to really make a difference.


Common Agricultural Policy

At present, CAP, the common agricultural policy signed by European countries as a joined treaty, over-rides many of the UK's own policies. According to Article 33 of CAP, the common aims, very simplified here, are to promote technological development to increase production and optimise production factors, especially labour; ensure fair living standards for farming communities; stabilise markets and ensure fair prices for customers.


Unfortunately, environmental issues are not mentioned, a particularly sad state of affairs when considering that at least 50% of land throughout the UK and Europe is farmland, and changes in climate - linked to carbon dioxide emissions - are ultimately going to drastically affect world wide crop production.




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