Did you know that in the United States, agricultural farms are responsible for more than 90% of the country’s airborne ammonia pollution?
That means farms are the biggest contributor to fine-particle air pollution and the biggest polluter of rivers and streams. So, it’s about high time to change our ways and start looking for eco-friendly farming methods that preserve our planet.
We cannot simply undo the damage we’ve incurred to the environment but by changing our ways, we can help heal the earth.
If you came here to look for sustainable farming methods, you’re on the right track! Because today, we’ll uncover 5 environment-friendly farming styles.
In particular, you’ll discover:
- An eco-friendly farming method that reduces non-renewable energy use by decreasing agrochemical needs
- A sustainable system that skips soil and conserves water using water
- A unique farming method that combines the latter with fishing
- 5 more eco-friendly farming tricks and practices you can apply to your farm
Whether you’re an environmentalist, homesteader, or traditional farmer planning to explore environmentally friendly farming methods, you’ll benefit from this.
5 Most Eco-Friendly Farming Methods
Conventional farming made it possible to supply the world’s growing population but the use of synthetic chemicals had drastic damaging effects on our environment.
Industrial farming that utilizes synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides may have a higher yield but it comes at a high environmental price. They poison fresh water and marine ecosystems and pollute the air, water, and soil.
So, what farming method is the most environmentally friendly. And how do they allow us to attain sustainability without incurring further damage to our nature?
1. Organic Farming
Also known as ecological farming or biological farming, this agricultural system restricts the use of synthetic chemicals. Instead, it uses organic fertilizers to produce healthy food and restore the soil’s nutrients.
Why is Organic Farming Environmentally Friendly?
It’s free from pesticides
Organic farming is sustainable because it eliminates the need for synthetic products. Instead, this method uses natural organic fertilizers to make the soil healthier.
Since plants grown in healthy soil have stronger natural defense mechanisms, they naturally resist disease and pests.
Reduces soil and water pollution
This eco-friendly farming method mitigates soil pollution because it doesn’t utilize synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
It helps reduce water solution and protects our groundwater from further contamination.
Makes the soil healthier
Organic farming helps improve the health of the soil because it produces more antioxidants, vitamin E, and omega-3. But this practice must be consistent, so organic materials can get into the deeper soil layers.
Herbicides and pesticides that contain glyphosate can impact insects like bees which play a vital role in pollination.
These chemicals can impede bee larvae’s growth, alter their navigational skills and foraging behavior and disrupt their gut microorganisms.
So going organic isn’t only good for nature. It also protects natural pollinators.
Some organic gardening advocates also say organic food tastes better than conventional food.
It may be true because our organic food is generally sold close to the farm where it was grown, rather than being transported long distances.
Higher nutritional value
Organic fruits and vegetables have more time to generate high amounts of nutrients and other valuable elements to human health since they grow slowly.
So crops grown organically have a higher concentration of nutrients.
Reusable organic garbage
Organic gardening can also help us make better use of our natural resources.
Natural materials, such as plant waste, can be composted and used as soil or fertilizer the following year.
As a result, organic gardening can help to reduce total waste levels by recycling and reusing more of our garbage.
Downsides of Earth-friendly Organic Farm:
Organic farmers may use organic fungicides or pesticides to lift off some work burdens, but it still requires more work than traditional farming.
It can be time-consuming because you’d have to pull weeds and use manual cultivation techniques.
You can coat traditional foods with waxes or preservatives to keep their freshness during shipping. But organic foods can’t receive the same treatment.
Organic versions of many products will spoil faster than conventional versions. So, delays or mismanagement in product deliveries can lead to damage to the product.
High upfront cost
Compared to typical pesticides used in conventional farming, certain soil additions, such as rock dust, are more expensive for many farmers.
Its cost may decrease over time as soil conditions improve through organic agricultural practices. And composting and other natural processes can help many organic farmers keep the soils healthy.
However, some organic farmers may never achieve cost reductions over time compared to traditional farmers.
Rigorous certification processes
You need to go through organic certifying agents recognized by the USDA to certify your farm and get an organic label for your products. And it can be very costly.
This guideline does not apply to farms or product processors that generate less than $5,000 in gross revenue from organic sales. Otherwise, marketing a product as organic is unlawful.
Organic products are more expensive than commercially-grown ones, so it can be challenging for some farmers to market their products.
Many communities are forming food cooperatives with local farmers and markets to combat this problem. Customers can “prepay” for organic crops they can pick up after the growing season has finished for a modest price.
No subsidies for organic farmers
Most farmers who grow commodity products receive farm subsidies, but organic farmers don’t have access to it.
It puts organic farmers at a higher risk of problems that can put them out of business, including weather changes and crop failure.
Don’t think you have enough land, time, and resources for organic farming? Don’t worry! Here’s another sustainable earth-friendly farming method that will fit in little spaces.
On top of that, it utilizes high-tech devices that will speed up the growing process of your plants! We’ll introduce you to hydroponic farming below.
This sustainable farming method skips the soil and replaces it with nutrient-rich water. Yes! You read it right.
Hydroponically grown plants get all of the nutrition they need for growth and development from the water, which contains fertilizer. It works best with leafy greens like lettuce, microgreens, herbs like basil, peppers, and strawberries.
What makes this unique among the rest is it’s suitable both indoors and outdoor.
Why Hydroponic is an Eco-friendly Farming Approach?
Although hydroponic systems rely on water to grow plants, they use 80 to 90% less water than plants grown in the ground.
In traditional gardening, you have to use lots of water to provide enough moisture and to ensure it reaches the root zone.
However, water evaporates as it moves through the soil, and only a tiny portion reaches its roots.
And that’s where hydroponic farming has an edge. In hydroponics, nutrient-rich water solution enters the roots almost instantly without evaporation. On top of that, you can recycle the water numerous times before replacing it; thus increasing water efficiency.
No pesticides needed
If you’ll keep your hydroponics indoors, pests would be less frequent.
Insects have a more challenging time infiltrating the system and attacking plants. And if you have fewer pest concerns, pesticides are barely necessary.
Other Benefits of Hydroponic Farming:
Lets you grow plants year-round
Plant growth is hampered in cold areas with chilly winter temperatures and shorter day lengths. But you can grow plants year-round in a hydroponics system because you can control the temperature, light, and fertilizer supply.
Isn’t it amazing? You don’t have to depend on the weather or climate outside since you can create a microclimate within your greenhouse.
Higher yield and faster growth
Hydroponically grown plants often grow faster and yield more. It is most likely due to the nutrition solution’s higher oxygen levels and the carefully controlled ambient variables.
Increasing plants’ oxygen levels can boost root growth and nutrient uptake. These ideal growing circumstances result in less plant stress and a more abundant crop.
Maximizes your space
Plants growing in the soil must adhere to strict spacing standards for each plant to have equal access to the soil’s limited supply of water and nutrients.
But in hydroponic farming, you won’t have to worry about plants being close and vying for root space. Hydroponics systems offer a more nutrient-rich solution to the root zone.
Plants produced in hydroponics systems are often cultivated at waist height on counters, benches, tables, and other surfaces. So, mature plants are easy to pick at this height since you don’t have to bend down or squat to reach them.
This is a huge advantage for gardeners with restricted movement or who cannot garden at ground level due to medical issues.
The Drawbacks of Hydroponics:
Higher setup cost
A hydroponics system is more expensive to buy and build than a typical garden.
The cost of a system varies depending on its type and size and whether it’s prefabricated or created with individual components to create a custom design.
Prone to power outages
Grow lights, water pumps, aerators, fans, and other components in both passive and active hydroponics systems run with the help of electricity.
As a result, the entire system suffers if the power goes out. A lack of electricity in an active system can be detrimental to plants if it goes unreported by the grower.
Needs constant monitoring and maintenance
Hydroponics needs more monitoring and micromanagement than traditional plant cultivation. All system components, including the following, require ongoing supervision to create a precisely controlled growing environment.
- Several properties of the nutrient solution, such as pH and electrical conductivity,
You also must regularly clean and refill the nutrient solution and the system parts to prevent clogging and algae growth.
Risks of waterborne diseases
Waterborne illnesses are much more common in hydroponically grown plants since they are grown in water rather than soil. Because the water is constantly circulated throughout the system, diseases can quickly spread across the growing system, damaging the entire collection of plants.
A waterborne pathogen can destroy all the plants in a hydroponics system in hours in extreme circumstances.
Problems spread quicker
Since hydroponic plants don’t utilize soil, there will be no buffer that’d protect them from extreme temperature changes, diseases, and pest attacks.
Therefore, they’ll suffer from nutrient deficiencies and disease much quicker.
It is worth noting that hydroponic farming isn’t ideal for tall plants like corn and deep taproots such as potatoes, onions, carrots, and turnips. These root crops need soil for their roots to spread out and search for nutrients and moisture.
If you think hydroponics is cool, then check out this next eco-friendly farming method that’s like an upgraded hydroponic system.
As its name suggests, aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture which refers to growing fish and other aquatic animals, and hydroponics. In this system, the fish’s manure provides nutrients to the plants and in return, the crops will purify the water.
Why Aquaponics is an Eco-friendly Farming Method?
Aquaponics has several advantages, including the ability to use up to ten times less water than typical agriculture. The recirculating system reduces water waste and allows other elements to be reused, such as fish feed.
Adaptive to climate
Many new technologies are environmentally friendly, yet they are not truly climate-resilient. The good news is aquaponics is a climate-adaptive increasing system that allows growers to make energy-saving modifications. Since aquaponics is a closed system with regulated conditions, strategies that can adapt to climate change, such as temperature variations, are easy to implement.
Aquaponics is not only profitable but also productive. Aquaponics is a fast-growing sector that can be used in small and large-scale settings.
So, despite having a higher upfront cost, it can be worthwhile because you can sell two different products/crops with the same amount of input.
Aquaponics, like other hydroponics systems, does not require pesticides or any chemical that can make the fish sick. So producers must be highly cautious about water quality.
Chemical-free production reduces input costs while also benefiting the environment and human health.
Aquaponics uses extremely little water and electricity in general. There is no waste and water pollution because it is a closed system.
Additionally, crop yields are considerably higher per square foot than traditional farming, which is critical for feeding a growing population.
Downsides of Aquaponics:
Limited crop selection
Aquaponics may accommodate a variety of fish species and plants, although the overall range is limited. The system is suitable for freshwater and saltwater species such as tilapia, carp, and bass.
But the vegetables available are confined to water-heavy crops such as cucumbers and green leafy vegetables such as lettuce.
High electricity consumption
While using renewable energy in an aquaponics system is feasible, some farmers may find that relying on electricity is prohibitively expensive.
High setup cost
The initial cost of setting up an aquaponics system makes it difficult for mid-sized farmers wishing to establish a system more extensive than a residential setup but less than a commercial scale setup.
Depending on the system used, commercial operations might cost anywhere from $25,000 to over $100,000.
While some aspects of an aquaponics system are climate-adaptive, such as low inputs and water utilization, others make it more difficult. Soil-grown crops can adjust to shifting weather conditions and temperature variations.
But a healthy aquaponics system requires more infrastructure and precise conditions to survive.
On the other hand, aquaponics may have unanticipated failure due to system failure or a power outage, resulting in crop loss.
Permaculture’s goal is to create farms that resemble natural ecosystems.
It has a collection of guidelines for reducing human interference in food production while increasing yields.
Permaculture includes using renewable energy and wasting nothing. It is a popular alternative for individuals looking for sustainable farming solutions since it tries to maximize the earth’s natural properties, such as collecting and using rainfall.
Growing grains and vegetables without plowing, each plant serving a different purpose, herb and plant spirals, hügelkultur beds, and constructing swales to store water are all permaculture design techniques.
Why Permaculture is Environment-friendly?
A large portion of our waste goes to landfills, contaminating our soil tremendously.
Permaculture helps alleviate soil pollution by reducing our overall waste output.
Reduces soil and air pollution
Since permaculture uses significantly fewer chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the soil is better protected from various types of pollution.
It also tries to lessen our carbon footprint. Permaculture reduces the usage of agricultural machines that generate toxic pollutants into the atmosphere.
Minimizes water pollution
Mitigating soil pollution can also help minimize water pollution. Thus, marine animals can enjoy a better and safer habitat with less fear of harmful chemicals.
Self-production of energy
Another advantage of this eco-friendly farming method implies that farmers should also try to generate their own energy.
Today, installing solar panels on our rooftops and producing plenty of electricity is simple. So, self-production of energy is possible.
Avoids the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides
Chemical fertilizers will also deplete the soil’s fertility over time, thus it’s posing serious concerns. Permaculture prefers to use organic fertilizers rather than chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
So, as a result, many insects will be preserved, and the problem of soil and groundwater contamination will be limited to some extent.
Protects animals and plants’ habitats
Another reason why permaculture is an eco-friendly farming method is it advocates for preserving a certain amount of land to protect animals and plants’ habitats. So, it also benefits our local flora and fauna.
Disadvantages of Permaculture:
Adjusting to new agricultural processes can be challenging and costly. Implementing this method needs a higher upfront cost, so this factor is worth considering.
Spread of unwanted bacteria and pests
Since you won’t be using chemical pesticides in implementing permaculture, there are chances that bacteria and pests can spread quickly.
Not sustainable for mass production
Chemical fertilizers help optimize yield and produce food for more people. And since you will be skipping it if you’re going the permaculture route, that means less yield on a mass-production scale.
Involves so much work
Fewer machines in farming processes mean more manual work. So, it’s time and labor-intensive and requires commitment.
It may also lead to an unpleasant smell.
Permaculture usually uses compost, so you can expect the production of significant smells and unpleasant gases that will be emitted into the air.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO), agroforestry refers to farming where trees such as shrubs and bamboo are incorporated or planted on the same land as crops.
Some examples are scattered trees on pastures and fruit trees in orchards.
Why Agroforestry is an Eco-friendly Farming Method?
Soil fertility and stability
Well-managed trees can aid in maintaining soil fertility by building up organic matter and nutrient cycling.
Soils in agroforestry are richer in nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, and organic carbon.
Trees are more efficient than annual crops in extracting nutrients from deeper soil layers because they have extensive roots.
Due to high soil salinity, over 900 million hectares of land worldwide were abandoned by farmers. They cannot sustain crops anymore, so they’re not suitable for commercial food production.
But one of the reasons for high soil salinity is irrigation-dependent farming systems in places with drier climates. And the good news is trees can help restore them and control salinity levels.
Low input of agrochemicals
Since agroforestry enhances soil quality, provides nutrients, and positively affects microclimate to support plant growth and livestock, synthetic fertilizers would be less needed.
You probably notice that there is less weed growth in areas of land where the tree crown casts shades. And that means fewer chemicals need for weeds too.
Prevention of damage to forests
This environment-friendly agriculture practice also helps prevent deforestation as it produces wood and non-wood products while allowing you to cultivate various crops in the same area.
Climate change mitigation
Agroforestry doesn’t just help control deforestation, but it also helps absorb carbon. No wonder, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), it is one of the vital climate mitigation strategies employed in agriculture.
40% of developing nations consider it a crucial part of their climate change mitigation plans.
Downsides of Agroforestry:
Growing healthy trees for profit necessitates ongoing upkeep that takes years of dedication and expertise.
Each tree must have enough space to develop according to its purpose, and to control the weeds, the spaces between the trees must be maintained.
Long waiting time
Because trees, unlike crops, require a long time to mature before they can truly serve their purpose in the system, agroforestry is never a quick answer.
Take a pecan tree, for example. It only reaches maturity and complete production when the tree is ten years old. Waiting for such a long time to get an ROI can be difficult for a lone farmer.
Limited market opportunities
Many agroforestry products are not widely traded, which contributes to the problem.
So many farmers would find it difficult to market them, and they’ll have to face price fluctuations or rejection of their products.
Risks of invasive species
The success of this entire environment-friendly agricultural system is determined by the tree species chosen. Trees impact their surroundings, which does not have to be always positive. Trees can host crop pests or offer nesting habitats for birds and animals that cause crop harm.
In Côte d’Ivoire, scientists discovered that corn production was reduced by 25% in areas closest to hedgerows due to damage caused by rats that live in them.
Competition between crops
Trees may compete for resources with crops or cattle when they don’t complement one other. Farmers who plant trees in narrow alleys should expect their crowns to shade most of the area below as they grow larger.
Top 5 Sustainable and Environmentally-friendly Farming Practices
Here are five environmentally-friendly farming techniques you can implement on your farm.
1. Using renewable energy resources
- Pumping and heating systems can be powered by solar panels.
- Hydroelectric power generated by river water can also be used to power various farming machines.
2. Crop rotation
3. Tillage management
But farmers can cut GHG emissions by controlling tillage practices.
4. Planting cover crops and perennials
5. Managing the whole system and landscapes
Frequently Asked Questions About Eco-friendly Farming
What is meant by eco-farming?
Ecological farming is a farming method that does not use genetically modified(GM) crops, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides.
Ecological farmers combat insect damage instead by avoiding large mono-crop plantations and preserving ecosystem diversity. This sustainable method helps restore soil nutrients and make it healthy.
How do you farm in an eco-friendly way?
There are many ways to make your farm eco-friendly and climate-smart. It includes reducing soil tillage, rotating crops, and planting cover crops.
But these tips would be most effective if you’d switch to sustainable farming methods such as organic farming, aquaponics, or hydroponics.
What are the 5 ideas to create a sustainable farm?
The sustainable farming methods or ideas that help create a healthy environment include organic farming, hydroponics, aquaponics, agroforestry, and permaculture.
Which farming technology is eco-friendly and scientific?
One of the most eco-friendly farming technology is hydroponics because it replaces soil with nutrient-rich water and enables you to grow plants both indoors and outdoors.
It also uses less water than conventional methods and allows you to grow crops all year round.
Why is organic farming harmful?
Some critics claim that organic farming is less efficient than the conventional farming method and uses more land so it leads to greater deforestation.
However, these claims simply ignore the positive impacts of organic farming on our environment.
Final Thoughts About Eco-Friendly Farming
So those are the five most eco-friendly farming methods today!
As you see, there are pros and cons for each method and it all comes down to your priorities. If you want to produce chemical-free products while helping the soil recover its health, organic farming is the way to go.
But if you want to try high-tech farming methods that use no soil, you should try hydroponics. You can also combine it with aquaculture if you’re into fishing so you can enjoy the best of both worlds!
Implementing permaculture and agroforestry which are also environment-friendly methods of farming is also a huge step toward sustainability.
With the right farming method and agricultural practices such as crop rotation, tilling management, and planting cover crops, we can provide food for billions of people without compromising our planet.
So, what’s your pick? Which eco-friendly farming method would you like to try? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.