By most estimates, the world population is projected to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050. This implies that food production must increase by 70 per cent to meet the demands of such a huge population. Therefore, it is becoming more apparent that serious reforms are required in the agricultural sector to ensure that our food system is ready to meet the challenges of a burgeoning world population. Specifically, we need to shift our agriculture from the conservative industrial food system, that has characterised food production for ages, to sustainable farming.
For a planet bedevilled with droughts and challenges in energy demand, a change from conventional industrial food systems to sustainable agriculture can be quite promising, in the long run. While contemporary agriculture produces a lot of agricultural jobs and generates massive amounts of output within a harvest season, it comes with several devastating problems that require sustainable farming practices to remedy the mess.
In this article, we’ll look at eight reasons why sustainable agriculture is vital for the food security of the future.
1. Nourishes and restores the soil
Generally, conventional agriculture is characterised by heavy tillage and heavy use of fertiliser to increase farm output. While fertilisers can help to spur plant growth, they often lead to polluted runoff water that ruins the natural environment. Additionally, the heavy use of fertilisers is not only harmful to soil ecology but can also be noxious to humans. Moreover, conventional farming fails to nourish the soil with the essential nutrients required to grow highly nutritious plants. The lack of emphasis on soil nourishment in conventional agriculture often results in crops that are highly susceptible to drought, diseases, and pests.
As opposed to conventional industrial farming, sustainable agriculture places a lot of emphasis on soil nourishment, which ultimately results in healthier plants and animals. Using natural fertilisers and crop rotation, while minimising the number of animals on a farm, sustainable agriculture ensures that soils are free from toxic compounds that may harm humans, animals, and pollinators. With healthy soils, plants can withstand attacks from pests and diseases because they have the required minerals to give them resilience
2. Saves energy
One distinguishing feature of industrial farming is its heavy reliance on energy-intensive machinery, especially fossil fuels. In fact, industrial agriculture is one of the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the world today.
In contrast, sustainable agriculture endeavours to minimise energy use at all levels of production. It not only embraces less energy intensive tools of agricultural production but also adopts smart farming systems. By eliminating the use of fossil fuels and reducing energy use, sustainable farming helps in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, thereby playing a significant role in combating climate change.
3. Conserves and protects water
Conventional industrial farming uses a lot of water to irrigate the vast tracts of land under cultivation without emphasising on conservation. As opposed to these conventional methods, sustainable agricultural systems use several techniques to conserve water, such as drip irrigation and mulching. In addition, it focuses on planting perennial crops with deep roots that don’t require a lot of water.
Moreover, sustainable farming embraces methods that protect water bodies from pollution. Specifically, this farming system uses practices such as contour farming and filter strips near rivers to limit contamination of the water mass.
4. Values diversity
The defining feature of industrial agriculture is monoculture, a system of farming that involves planting vast tracts of land with a single plant breed. The over-reliance on only one plant breed increases the vulnerability of plants to diseases, which may quickly spread from one plant to another and wipe out the entire crop. Because monocrops are highly vulnerable to pests and diseases, the large industrial farms heavily depend on herbicides and pesticides to keep their plants healthy. Regrettably, these chemicals can be hazardous to pollinators, wildlife, and people.
Unlike industrial agriculture, sustainable farming focuses on diverse farming systems which use a variety of crops. The diversity of plants in this farming system ensures that they are more resilient to withstand any pests, diseases, and drought. Moreover, a sustainable farm is cooperative because it incorporates plant and animal production together while also providing a healthy environment for wildlife, pollinators, and people.
5. Provides crops with resilience
As already stated, sustainable agriculture plays a vital role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as conserving energy and water. For a planet that is increasingly facing the vagaries of climate change, sustainable agriculture provides resilience because it focuses on growing a variety of crops as opposed to single breed crops while ensuring that the soils are healthy to provide the required minerals required for good plant health.
Additionally, if sustainable agricultural systems incorporate perennial plants and trees, coupled with free-range livestock grazing systems, agriculture will play a key role in sinking the carbon footprint
6. Works in harmony with nature
Unlike conventional industrial agriculture which is purely an embodiment of man, sustainable agriculture works in harmony with nature. It places a lot of emphasis on natural productivity by relying on the regenerative aspects of the natural environment. Moreover, it doesn’t strive to dominate nature, as is often the case with industrial agriculture. Instead, it allows nature to take its course.
7. Supports local communities
Sustainable agriculture is generally localised and places a lot of emphasis on domestic food production. Consequently, the localised food system enables farmers to reinvest their money within their communities where it circulates, and this ultimately uplifts the living standards of community members while also creating rural jobs.
8. Stabilises food supply
The consolidation of individual farms into big corporations that offer economies of scale to individual farmers characterises industrial agriculture. However, the development of huge corporations may be quite risky because if one of them faces a problem, the results may have far-reaching consequences on food security. On the contrary, sustainable farming tends to be highly decentralised and therefore limits the chances of food insecurity occasioned by the financial troubles, or any problem that a corporation may encounter.
If you are looking for a new job or to progress your career within sustainable agriculture, then Agricultural Recruitment Specialists are worldwide recruitment experts in agricultural, food, farming and rural recruitment and have a variety of executive and management positions available within agriculture, horticulture and the food and rural sectors throughout the UK and the rest of the world. To find out more about our agricultural job vacancies and discuss your future career, contact our team of agricultural recruitment professionals. You can visit our website here: www.agriRS.co.uk or call our team on: 01905 345 155 or email us at: info@agriRS.co.uk
Alternatively, if you are a client looking to expand your team, whilst using a professional recruitment / headhunting solution, then please call us today on 01905 345155 or email us at: info@agriRS.co.uk