Agriculture puts a tremendous amount of pressure on our natural resources and the changing climate is impacting how we grow and produce our food. Sustainable agriculture seeks to address these issues but we must look at the three pillars of sustainability when thinking about sustainable agriculture.
- Social (people): Agricultural practices should 1) provide sufficient human food, feed, fiber, and fuel to meet the needs of a growing population and 2) deal fairly with workers and have a mutually beneficial relationship with the surrounding community.
- Environment (planet): Agricultural practices should protect the environment, expand the Earth’s natural resource base, and maintain and improve soil fertility.
- Economy (profit): A sustainable farm should be a profitable business that contributes to a robust economy.
Some common sustainable agriculture practices include:
- Rotating crops and embracing diversity to maintain and sustain the soil’s health and provide pest control for crop production
- Planting cover crops to help protect and build soil health by preventing soil erosion and replenishing soil nutrients
- Reducing/eliminating tillage to prevent soil erosion and organic matter loss
- Integrating livestock and crops for efficiency by bringing manure fertilizer closer to the crops.
Here are a few websites to visit if you would like to learn more about sustainable agriculture:
- USDA – Sustainable Agriculture
- Union of Concerned Scientists – “What is Sustainable Agriculture?”
- Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education
- Nutrient Stewardship’s 4 R’s
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