No-till or reduced till methods, which involve inserting seeds directly into undisturbed soil, can reduce erosion and improve soil health. Applying integrated pest management IPM. A range of methods, including mechanical and biological controls, can be applied systematically to keep pest populations under control while minimizing use of chemical pesticides. Integrating livestock and crops. Industrial agriculture tends to keep plant and animal production separate, with animals living far from the areas where their feed is produced, and crops growing far away from abundant manure fertilizers. A growing body of evidence shows that a smart integration of crop and animal production can be a recipe for more efficient, profitable farms. Adopting agroforestry practices. By mixing trees or shrubs into their operations, farmers can provide shade and shelter to protect plants, animals, and water resources, while also potentially offering additional income. Managing whole systems and landscapes. Sustainable farms treat uncultivated or less intensively cultivated areas, such as riparian buffers or prairie strips, as integral to the farm—valued for their role in controlling erosion, reducing nutrient runoff, and supporting pollinators and other biodiversity. A key theme connecting many of these practices is diversification. Breeding research programs have dwindled in recent years, leaving farmers increasingly reliant on a limited set of varieties tailored to the needs of industrial farms. Finally, sustainable agriculture is not a single, well-defined end goal. Scientific understanding about what constitutes sustainability in environmental, social, and economic terms is continuously evolving and is influenced by contemporary issues, perspectives, and values. For example, agriculture's ability to adapt to climate change was not considered a critical issue 20 years ago, but is now receiving increasing attention. In addition, the details of what constitutes a sustainable system may change from one set of conditions e. Sustainable Agriculture and the Management of Natural Resources When the production of food and fiber degrades the natural resource base, the ability of future generations to produce and flourish decreases. The decline of ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean region, Pre-Columbian southwest U. A sustainable agriculture approach seeks to utilize natural resources in such a way that they can regenerate their productive capacity, and also minimize harmful impacts on ecosystems beyond a field's edge. One way that farmers try to reach these goals is by considering how to capitalize on existing natural processes, or how to design their farming systems to incorporate crucial functions of natural ecosystems. By designing biologically-integrated agroecosystems that rely more on the internal cycling of nutrients and energy, it is often possible to maintain an economically viable production system with fewer potentially toxic interventions. For example, farmers aiming for a higher level of environmental sustainability might consider how they can reduce their use of toxic pesticides by bringing natural processes to bear on limiting pest populations. This might happen, for example, by planting hedgerows along field edges, or ground covers between rows, thereby providing habitat for insects and birds that prey on the pests, or by planting more diverse blends of crops that confuse or deflect pests Figure 2. Maintaining a high degree of genetic diversity by conserving as many crop varieties and animal breeds as possible will also provide more genetic resources for breeding resistance to diseases and pests. Figure 2 A clover and grass cover crop adds biodiversity to an almond orchard, which aids in nutrient cycling and provides habitat for beneficial insects, while also building soil organic matter. Conservation of resources critical for agricultural productivity also means taking care of soil so that it maintains its integrity as a complex and highly structured entity composed of mineral particles, organic matter, air, water, and living organisms. Farmers interested in long-term sustainability often prioritize caring for the soil, because they recognize that a healthy soil promotes healthy crops and livestock. Maintaining soil functioning often means a focus on maintaining or even increasing soil organic matter. Soil organic matter functions as a crucial source and sink for nutrients, as a substrate for microbial activity, and as a buffer against fluctuations in acidity, water content, contaminants, etc. Furthermore, the buildup of soil organic matter can help mitigate the increase of atmospheric CO2 and therefore climate change. Another important function of soil organic matter is inducing a better soil structure, which leads to improved water penetration, less runoff, better drainage, and increased stability, thereby reducing wind and water erosion. Due to a high reliance on chemical fertilizers, agroecosystem functioning has been disconnected from the internal cycling of key plant nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Phosphate minerals for fertilizer are currently mined, but global reserves are predicted to sustain food production for only another 50 to years. Consequently, phosphate prices are anticipated to rise unless new reserves are discovered and innovations in recovery of phosphates from waste are developed. The recycling of nitrogen and phosphorus at the farm and regional scale , improving efficiencies of fertilizer applications, and relying on organic nutrient sources animal and green manures are important elements of sustainable agriculture Figure 3. Recycling of nutrients is facilitated by a diversified agriculture in which livestock and crop production are more spatially integrated. For these reasons, extensive mixed crop-livestock systems, particularly in developing countries, could significantly contribute to future agricultural sustainability and global food security. The practice has been shown to reduce soil erosion, increase yield, increase biotic activity, improve soil structure, and enhance soil organic matter accumulation. Overdraft of surface waters results in disturbance of key riparian zones, while overdraft of groundwater supplies threatens future irrigation capacity. Salinization, nutrient overloads, and pesticide contamination are widespread water quality issues. Selection and breeding of more drought- and salt-tolerant crop species and hardier animal breeds, use of reduced-volume irrigation systems, and management of soils and crops to reduce water loss are all ways to use water more efficiently within sustainable agroecosystems. Modern agriculture is heavily dependent on non-renewable energy sources, especially petroleum. Instead, farmers will plant a variety of plants together to promote biodiversity and ward off pests and pathogens Nicholls and Altieri Where conventional systems promote uniformity and depend on synthetic chemicals for protection against disease and pests, sustainable systems rely on biodiversity as a measure to protect against these things. Sustainable agriculture profits farmers, economies, and food banks while existing symbiotically with the landscape. One example of many in sustainable farming practices, which emphasizes economic benefits and environmental health, is conservation agriculture. Conservation agriculture underlines the focus of sustainable agriculture in that it focuses on producing high yields without compromising the integrity of the environment. The environmental impact and production levels of each method will determine its overall viability as a solution to growing trends. It is necessary to make these comparisons in order to identify the best agricultural method that can sustainably meet the needs of the current population. Although these comparisons are based off of scientific data, there is much more research that needs to be done in order to make a definitive judgment. To meet the needs of the current population requires a tremendous amount of resources. In addressing this rapid growth, production levels become a serious point of comparison. Most research indicates that sustainable crops produce much less than conventional systems. There are many environmental benefits associated with sustainable agriculture, but its production capacity is limited. In general, sustainable agriculture fails to match up to conventional agriculture in terms of production. This result varies though, and in some instances organic crops actually best conventional crops. Although certain conditions may favor organic crops, conventional agriculture is designed to produce the highest yields possible. Many factors contribute to this difference in production. Conventional crops are designed specifically to produce maximal yields; therefore, the difference should be expected. Typically conventional crops are genetically modified to perform better under certain conditions than sustainable crops Carpenter However, these crops are also sprayed with toxic pesticides and herbicides to make up for their uniformity. Although levels of production are reduced in sustainable agriculture, studies show that higher levels of biodiversity are linked to healthier crops. Biodiversity plays a large part in this comparison because it is a determinant of agricultural health and performance. The greater the biodiversity, the more immune plants are to pests and disease Gomiero, Pimentel, and Paoletti This is important to highlight because conventional agriculture discourages biodiversity and instead relies on synthetic chemicals to maintain crop health. Techniques such as integrated pest management and intercropping could be applied to conventional systems and in turn promote biodiversity. High biodiversity is important to sustainable farming because it enhances the performance of the ecological cycles that the crops depend upon. It is important to encourage high nutrient levels and biodiversity as these two factors contribute significantly to the health of the crops and the landscape. Although biodiversity does not directly determine crop yield, it does play a major role in the health and permanence of sustainable farms. Despite the impacts conventional methods have on agricultural land, not all conventional farms degrade biodiversity. The global impact agriculture has can be significantly reduced if conventional farmers adopt sustainable techniques. In addition to higher levels of biodiversity, sustainable farming is typically associated with better soil quality. The increased concentrations of these nutrients can be contributed to the depth of the food web and amount of biomass in sustainable systems. Sustainable crops are more permanent than conventional crops because they work in harmony with the landscape rather than drain it of nutrients and biomass. Soil management is vital for existing farms because agricultural production is increasing globally and land is becoming less available to accommodate this growth. Conventional systems can improve soil quality by practicing sustainable methods like no-tillage farming, agroforestry, and integrated pest management, but sustainable agriculture is the most effective form of food production in terms of maintaining soil conditions. Again, research shows that an increase in biodiversity and a reduction of chemical input can result in conventional farms with more healthy soils and improved crop performance. A major problem concerning agriculture is soil erosion caused by nutrient loss, run-off, salinity, and drought. Organic systems enhance soil composition as well as prevent soil erosion due to the greater amount of plant material and biomass in the soil. Compared to sustainable farming, conventional crops are terribly inefficient at maintaining the integrity of agricultural landscapes. Conventional agriculture is therefore unable meet the demands of the growing populations without consuming a substantial amount of land and non-renewable resources. On a global scale, water is a renewable resource that can meet the needs of our current population. Locally, however, water is a scarce resource and must be appropriated efficiently. The amount of fresh water available for consumption globally is small, but regional constraints make accessing that water even more difficult for many millions of people. Increasing demand for fresh water is pressuring global stocks. To conserve this resource a drastic overhaul of water saving techniques, especially in agriculture, must occur. Due to the abundance of flora and fauna in sustainable systems, organic soil typically retains much more water than conventional soil. This increased retention rate enables sustainable agricultural systems to produce much higher yields than conventional systems during drought conditions Gomiero, Pimentel, and Paoletti This is a desirable characteristic in agricultural land as it allows crops to be more tolerable to changing climate. To manage available water resources, sustainable agriculture is the more efficient approach to feeding the world. A gap exists between current production rates and potential production rates of crops. Through better management of water and soil, much greater yields can be produced. Meeting future food demands is a dynamic problem that requires consideration of all things, but most importantly water and soil conservation. Sustainable agriculture relies solely on natural processes for input and recycles nutrients on-site to eliminate the use of non-renewable resources.
Organic vs. Conventional Farming Organic agriculture is a production system that regenerates the health of vs., ecosystems, and people. Organic farmers rely on environmental processes, biodiversity, and cycles adapted to local conditions rather than the use of synthetic inputs like chemical topics, pesticides, and herbicides.
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GMOs are not allowed in organic. The difference conventional environmental and conventional The essential topic between organic and conventional farming is that conventional farming relies on chemical intervention to and pests and weeds and provide plant nutrition.
That means conventional pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Organic agriculture relies on natural principles like biodiversity and composting instead to produce healthy, abundant food. In agriculture production, overall system health is emphasized, and the interaction of management practices is the primary concern.
The Effects Conventional and organic farming methods have different consequences on the environment and people. Conventional agriculture causes increased greenhouse gas emissions vs., soil erosion, water pollution, and threatens human health. Organic essay has a smaller carbon footprint, conserves and builds soil healthand essay ecosystems for cleaner water and air, all without toxic pesticide residues.
Discover the difference.