Sustainability

Sustainability is not just a buzz word, it’s a profound methodology that emphasizes environmental stewardship and farming methods that reserve, preserve and restore the land. All farmers work hard to manage soil nutrients, weeds, and pests, but sustainability farmers achieve this with techniques that mimic natural processes and encourage ecological harmony.

The ideas behind sustainable agriculture are quite extensive, but generally speaking it is converned with responsible soil management, minimal chemical fertilizers, and natural pest, weed and disease control.

Sustainability farmers attempt to manage the land as mother nature would. As such, a strong effort is made to use farming methods that mimic natural processes, leaving the farm and the generally environment healthy and productive. The key principles of sustainability are responsible soil management, minimal chemical fertilizers, and natural pest, weed and disease control.

Responsible Soil Management

The most important job for sustainability farmers is performed long before a single seed is planted. Before any other activity, encouraging soil health is foremost, since it produces vigorous crops that are more resistant to pests and disease. Methods used to enhance soil health and productivity include crop rotation, soil coverage, and reduced tillage.

Crop Rotation

Crop rotation is the process of planting different crops on the same land in sequential seasons. For example, cereal crops like corn are often planted in one season followed by legumes, such as soybeans in the following season.

• Complementary crops replenish soil nutrients. Corn, for example, sucks nitrates from the soil and soy beans put nitrogen back into the soil.
• Disrupts weed and pest life cycles.
• Reduces soil exposure and degradation.

Soil coverage

In nature soil remains covered throughout the year with organic matter, which moderates temperature extremes, improves water absorption, enhances aeration, and protects soil from wind and rain erosion.

• Cover crops like clover and alfalfa offer perennial soil coverage
• A mulch layer is often placed over exposed land.

Reduced Tillage

Sustainability farmers avoid activities like moldboard plowing. Turning over soil causes significant damage, since fertile top soil is buried beneath sub soil. Top soil is rich in plant matter and once buried this plant matter is unable to decay properly. Also, sub soil has little plant matter, which makes it much more susceptible to erosion.

 



Minimal Chemical Fertilizers

Intensive farming places high demands on the land. Crops take nutrients out of the soil that must be replaced for use in future season. Chemical fertilizers offer a short-term solution to nutrient depletion, but they cause serious problems in the long-run. Run-off, for example, pollutes rivers and streams. In addition, plants require several different nutrients, while chemical fertilizers provide relatively few compounds, leading to soil exhaustion. By contrast, sustainability farmers use natural methods to maintain soil nutrients as outlined below.

Biodiversity- Each plant requires a certain set of nutrients and planting the same crop continuously depletes such nutrients. Growing a variety of crop types prevents depletion of specific nutrients.
• Crop rotation helps to replenish the soil with vital nutrients.
• Catch crops reduce mineral leaching
• Composts and aged manures are ideal, eco-friendly fertilizers.
• Biodiversity. Each plant requires a certain set of nutrients and planting the same crop continuously depletes such nutrients. Growing a variety of crop types prevents depletion of specific nutrients.
• Crop rotation helps to replenish the soil with vital nutrients.
• Catch crops reduce mineral leaching


Natural pest, weed & disease control

Pests, weeds and disease are factors that all farmers struggle with. Sustainability farmers use natural methods to prevent and control these factors.

• Biological control: insects such as spiders and mites prey on unwanted pests keeping pest populations at bay
• "Farmscaping" is the process of building habitats for natural control agents • Pure crop plantations have a higher concentration of resources that can sustain large populations of crop specific pests.
• Diverse plant types prevent pests from recognizing their preferred food source. Certain insects locate green plants against a brown soil background and ignore areas with total plant coverage. Other insects recognize plants by smell and plant diversity dilutes the odor of individual plants, preventing insects from locating their preferred food source.
• Sod crops out compete weeds for resources, preventing them from spreading.
• Clean farm equipment to prevent weed seeds from being replanted.
• Guard against introduction of weeds from outside sources.
• Disease control begins with a healthy soil that produces robust plants.
• Plant clean seeds.
• Sterilize farm equipment

Biodiversity

• Greater diversity produces greater stability within the system and minimizes pest problems.
• Crop rotation increases biodiversity and helps break weed and pest life cycles, and provides complementary fertilization among crops in the planting sequence.
• Borders, windbreaks, and special plantings provide habitat for beneficial organisms that are natural enemies of pests.
• The addition of cover crops hold soil and nutrients in place, conserving soil moisture with mowed or standing dead mulches.