19 July 2017

Ensuring agricultural sustainability food production systems

The primary goal of improving the sustainability of our agricultural processes is to continue to be able to meet growing demand for food and textiles. When we consider future generations, we understand that it is essential for us to create a world with a sustainable future.

Key drivers in the sustainable agriculture movement aim to ensure we maintain a healthy environment, ensure social and economic equity for all whilst maintaining economic profitability. The process of sustainable agricultural requires the support and involvement of all of the bodies involved in the food system process;

  • Farmers
  • Food processors
  • Distribution companies
  • Retailers
  • Waste management
  • Consumers

What is sustainable agriculture?

There are a number of practices associated with sustainable agricultural services and food systems. These are dependant on the stage of the process, with some of those involved required to do more than others due to the increased environmental impact of their activities.

Farm workers are encouraged to reduce water usage where possible, monitor and improve their pollution levels and maintain healthy soil to ensure that their crops and livestock have a reduced impact on the environment. Equally, distributors and retailers are being encouraged to purchase locally sourced produce to sell in order to reduce emissions and promote local businesses.

Promoting soil health

Farmers and growers are encouraged to promote soil health, utilising nutrient management solutions. Soil health can be promoted through plant diversity, which also diversifies the soil and the microbial compounds found within it. Further agricultural services, such as crop rotation, also promote a varied fertilisation of the soil.

Plants should be grown throughout the year, utilising the carbon input that different roots contribute to the soil, in comparison to above ground biomass, to ensure that soil is nutrient rich for better yields. Winter cover crops promote and increase nutrient retention in the soil whilst perennial crops are shown to combat nutrient leaching which improves water quality. This ensures carbon rich soil and results in cleaner air and prevents soil erosion from water and the wind.

Reducing water usage

Minimising water use during agricultural services such as irrigation, may not seem easy, however, reducing water use can help prevent water shortages and droughts which can be all the more detrimental to the industry and community. Although the use of water is essential to agricultural services, farmers can be more aware of improvements they can implement to make their crops and resources utilise water more effectively. Enhancing on-farm water conservation methods such as tail water return systems that aim to increase water pump efficiency and powering these irrigation pumps with renewable or solar energy, can help to decrease water usage.

Lowering pollution levels

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions during agricultural operations is critical for both large and small farms. Nitrous Oxide and methane are both classed as greenhouse gases and have played a significant role in the depletion of the ozone layer, particularly in areas of the world like Australia. Nitrous Oxide or N2O is 300 times more damaging than carbon dioxide and is present in our atmosphere, primarily from nitrogen based fertilisers.

In order to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted, it is vital for farmers to be more efficient in the way they use nitrogen based fertilizer. Nitrogen efficient farming methods are not typically discouraged due to the bountiful crop result that this type of fertiliser yields, so, therefore, farmers should be conscious of ensuring they are using measured amounts and have conducted a field assessment method to decipher average rainfall, soil types and previous crops grown in the area.

Worker well-being

Consumers are typically becoming savvier about the way in which their food products are produced. They are more concerned with the sustainable efforts of the agricultural services and the well-being of the workers who grow, pick and pack their food. Locally grown food is often considered slightly more expensive but supports local businesses and reduces carbon emissions due to the greatly reduced shipping distance. It also offers equal pay for equal work and reduces the need for importation of crops from overseas countries.

At AWSM Farming Ltd, we strive to offer agricultural services that promote sustainable farming efforts, ensure the wellbeing of livestock and promote the importance of worker wellbeing within farms. If you want to know more about agricultural services and sustainability, then get in touch with us.