Are you on the way to shifting to sustainable farming but still having second thoughts? Are you worrying it might hinder your profit?
A recent meta-analysis revealed that organic yields are indeed 25% lower than conventional yields. But what are the benefits of sustainable agriculture? And how does sustainable farming help the environment and your community?
In this article, we’ll dig into the advantages of sustainable agriculture and its effect on our:
We’ll also provide insights on how it works and how you can implement sustainable farming practices.
Without further ado, let’s dive right in!
Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides boosted the industrialization of agriculture but higher yield and productivity come at a high price. Greenhouse emissions skyrocketed, and our water and air got more polluted.
And it doesn’t stop there. Each American has now over 43 pesticides that circulate in our blood and cause adverse health effects. Farmers who are more exposed to these pesticides are at higher risk.
But what are the benefits of sustainable farming? How can it make a difference in our environment?
Sustainable Agriculture and Environmental Benefits
1. It prevents pollution
Smoke from agricultural burning, dust from tillage, traffic, and harvest, pesticide drift from spraying, and nitrous oxide emissions from nitrogen fertilizer use all impact air quality.
And that’s where one of the environmental benefits of sustainable agriculture comes in!
Sustainable agriculture can enhance air quality by absorbing agricultural residue into the soil and employing appropriate amounts of tillage. Planting windbreaks, cover crops, or strips of native perennial grasses can also help prevent dust.
2. Saves energy
Agriculture now relies mainly on nonrenewable energy sources, particularly petroleum.
Sustainable farming systems have minimized the requirement for fossil fuels or nonrenewable energy sources by substituting renewable sources or labor.
3. Prevents soil erosion
One of the downsides of traditional farming practices like tillage is soil erosion. Did you know that we’re losing 10 million hectares of cropland yearly due to soil erosion? It’s a serious problem that affects and threatens our world for production.
But by eliminating tillage, managing irrigation systems to reduce runoff, and planting more plants or mulch, you can help prevent erosion.
Agroforestry and other sustainable crop diversification methods also enhance your farm’s biological and economic stability.
4. Encourages biodiversity
Applying earth-friendly and sustainable farming practices like crop rotation helps enrich the soil and prevents disease and pest outbreaks. But its effect doesn’t stop there.
Such a method allows farmers to plant a wide variety of plants and improve biodiversity in the community.
Using pesticide-free farming methods also helps improve the population of pollinators which has plummeted over the years. One of the prime examples of pollinators is patched bumble bees who suffered due to ubiquitous toxins.
Sustainable livestock production comprises selecting appropriate animal species, animal nutrition, reproduction, herd health, and grazing management. They all contribute to the long-term development of livestock.
Furthermore, animals are better cared for and treated correctly and respectfully due to sustainable agriculture.
All living creatures’ natural habits, such as grazing or pecking, are accommodated. As a result, they grow more naturally.
Sustainable farmers and ranchers use livestock husbandry techniques that protect the health of their animals.
Sustainable Agriculture Economic Benefits
Now, you may be wondering “what are the advantages of sustainable agriculture in terms of economy?” This time, let’s see how it improves the economy in the long term and benefits us all.
1. Reduces costs
This can be subjective, depending on the type of sustainable farming method, but sustainable practices can help cut costs.
Take organic farming, for example. Instead of using pesticides and other harsh chemicals and synthetic fertilizers, all you need are manure and organic waste that can be turned into fertilizers.
Since organic farming can help recover the soil’s fertility, it can also lessen the need for synthetic fertilizers.
Another cost-effective farming solution s hydroponics. This system allows you to maximize your garden space and stack the system so you can grow more and plant all year round.
It doesn’t need pesticides since greenhouses are usually enclosed and speed up your plant’s growth. Therefore you can save a considerable amount and earn more money.
2. Improves food production with less waste
Providing food for 8 billion people across the globe is challenging. But with smart farming and sustainable agricultural practices, we can lessen our waste and provide for more people without compromising the future generation.
Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture for Health
As we mentioned earlier, synthetic chemicals such as pesticides have damaging effects not just on the farmers but also on consumers. So, how can people and communities benefit from sustainable farming?
It improves public health
One of the main pros of sustainable farming is its positive impact on the public’s health. Aside from contaminating soil, pesticides have harmful effects on human health. Some of the acute or immediate effects of pesticide exposure include:
- Nose irritation
- Pesticide poisoning that has similar symptoms to flu or cold
Pesticides that contain pyrethrin/pyrethroid, organophosphate, and carbamate can also trigger an asthma attack.
Long-term exposure to pesticides can also cause chronic health effects such as:
- Brain and nervous system damage
- Birth defects
- Liver, kidney, and lung diseases
- Cancer in the brain, prostate, testes, and ovaries
Children are even more vulnerable to pesticide toxicity, which can alter their behavior and physiology.
By switching to sustainable agriculture and abstaining from using pesticides, you are making the crops and your farm safer for workers and surrounding communities. So, it also improves public health safety.
Disadvantages of Sustainable Agriculture
While sustainable farming has many benefits, it also has a few downsides. So, what are the disadvantages of sustainable farming?
1. Limited land use
One of the significant drawbacks of sustainable agriculture is the limited use of land, making it unsuitable for mass production.
Sustainable agriculture aims to minimize the use of machines, but that can take a toll on production. You’ll need more time and people to help you take care of the plants and do the manual labor for you.
Thus, it slows down the production and increases your initial investment.
3. Shorter shelf life
Another disadvantage of sustainable agriculture is the crop’s shorter shelf life. Since organic products can’t be treated with preservatives, they usually don’t last long. So, delays in the delivery can cause damage to the products.
4. Reviving fertility
It takes time before the soil recovers its fertility without synthetic fertilizers. And the longer it takes to revive, the longer you have to wait to make some profits again.
To sum it up, “what are the advantages of sustainable farming and its downsides?”
What is Sustainable Agriculture?
Sustainable agriculture refers to eco-friendly farming methods to meet society’s food and textile needs without compromising future generations’ ability to provide for and meet their own needs.
Farmers and sustainable agriculture practitioners seek a healthy environment, social and economic equity, and profitability.
Simply put, it aims to preserve the environment while expanding the earth’s natural resources and creating a better quality of life for animals and humans.
Sustainability has three components:
- Environmental conservation
- Social responsibility
- Economic development
People often only think about environmental conservation when we talk about sustainable agriculture. But it does more than that!
It’s also about people and our community’s health.
Why is Sustainability so Important?
A Roman writer, Columella, wrote during the first century AD, ” The earth neither grows old nor wears out if it is dunged.” This shows that even during ancient times, people knew that applying animal manure as fertilizer and the traditional techniques used in sustainable agriculture effectively revived soil fertility.
Many commercial farms traded sustainable methods with chemical fertilizers in the 20th century. And it caused a chain of unhealthy and hazardous effects on our environment and humans.
Take the Mississippi River, for example. Runoff fertilizers from commercial farms travel down to the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico and cause a dead zone that extends to over 7,000 square miles of ocean. And the saddest part is it kills all marine life within its reach.
Additionally, the cheap corns produced by factory farms are fed to cows, pigs, and chickens, and their manure stagnates lagoons and causes various strains of diseases.
That’s why switching to sustainable agriculture is critical for:
- Environmental quality
We need it to clean the air, preserve natural resources, and prepare a nontoxic environment for future generations.
Our environment affects our health and quality of life, so taking a leap and boarding the ship that aims for sustainability is also a step toward better public health.
A growing population means higher energy, water, food, and space needs. But by choosing sustainable farming methods such as organic farming and hydroponics, we can grow our yield and economy while preserving the earth.
How Does Sustainable Farming Work?
Sustainable farming starts with simple environmentally-friendly agricultural practices such as:
- Reviving or building healthy soil and preventing soil erosion
- Conserving water
- Minimizing water, air, and soil pollution
- Increasing crop’s resilience to extreme weather conditions
- Promoting and enhancing biodiversity
But aside from that, there are a few more sustainable methods you should try if you aim to save the environment.
Sustainable Agriculture Methods:
Here are other sustainable farming practices you can implement on your farm.
1. Crop rotation and embracing biodiversity
Planting various crops has many advantages, including enhanced soil health and insect management. Intercropping (growing different crops in the same place) and complex multiyear crop rotations are examples of crop diversity approaches.
2. Planting cover crops and perennials
Cover crops like clover, rye, and hairy vetch planted in the off-season and perennial crops that cover and maintain the living roots help prevent soil erosion.
These crops also replenish and revive soil nutrients, control weeds, and reduce the need for herbicides and synthetic fertilizers.
3. Reducing or eliminating tillage
Tillage (traditional plowing) prepares fields for planting and eliminates weed problems. However, it can lead to soil loss and destruction of soil structure. No-till or reduced-till methods, in which seeds are planted directly into undisturbed soil, can help prevent erosion and increase soil health.
4. Organic pest management
Mechanical and biological controls and other measures can be used to control pest populations while reducing chemical pesticide usage.
5. Integrating livestock and crops on farms
Plant and animal production are typically kept separate in industrial agriculture, with animals living far from feed-producing areas and crops growing far from rich manure fertilizers.
An increasing amount of evidence suggests that combining agricultural and animal production might improve farm efficiency and profitability.
6. Applying agroforestry practices
Farmers can provide shade and protect plants, animals, and water resources while potentially earning additional cash from fruit or nut crops by including trees or shrubs.
7. Taking care of every part of the system
Uncultivated or less intensively farmed lands are seen as essential to sustainable agriculture.
Natural vegetation beside streams or prairie plant strips inside or around crop fields, for instance, can help minimize erosion, and reduce nutrient runoff. It also supports bees, and other pollinators, and enhances general biodiversity.
Sustainable farming and conventional farming share the same components such as:
- Soil management
- Crop management
- Water management
- Disease and pest management
- Waste management
But they vary in the methods used.
Common Questions About the Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
We also compiled the most asked questions about sustainable farming to help you find the answers easily.
What are the three benefits of sustainable agriculture?
The benefits of local sustainable farming include environmental preservation and better public health. By adopting sustainable practices, we can reduce our dependency on nonrenewable resources and chemical use.
It also helps us save scarce resources and revive our soil’s fertility while allowing us to meet the world’s food demand.
What are the advantage and disadvantages of sustainable agriculture?
The advantages of sustainable agriculture include cost reduction, control of air and water pollution and soil erosion, biodiversity, and social equality.
But it also has a fair share of downsides. For example, it takes time for farmers to carry out their farm operations. It’s also not easy to revive the soil’s fertility without the help of chemical fertilizers.
What are the benefits of good agricultural practices?
Reducing the risk of harmful contamination of your product is one of the main benefits of good agricultural practices.
This way, you can ensure that the food you’re selling to the public is safe for consumption and free from harm or illnesses.
But good agricultural practices can’t wholly eliminate contamination risks.
What are the effects of sustainable agriculture?
Sustainable agricultural practices help preserve and restore critical habits, protect watersheds, and enhance soil health and water and air quality.
Thus, implementing it can help preserve our planet and improve our lives and future generations.
Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture: Final Takeaways
So that’s sustainable agriculture, its methods, and its advantages.
As you see, sustainable farming benefits abound and it’s only up to you, and to all of us if we’re going to start changing our ways.
By recalibrating our minds and redirecting our steps toward sustainable farming, we can make a difference. Yes! We can meet our needs without robbing future generations of a chance to live on a beautiful earth.
So, why don’t you start exploring different environmentally-friendly farming methods so we can all enjoy the benefits of sustainable agriculture? Check out different options from the article below.