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Sustainable agriculture

Sustainable agriculture is the practice of farming using principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment. It has been defined as "an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will last over the long term:

  • Satisfy human food and fiber needs
  • Make the most efficient use of non-renewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls
  • Sustain the economic viability of farm operations
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.â€�

Sustainable Agriculture in the United States was addressed by the 1990 farm bill. More recently, as consumer and retail demand for sustainable products has risen, organizations such as Food Alliance and Protected Harvest have started to provide measurement standards and certification programs for what constitutes a sustainably grown crop.

Farming and Natural Resources

The physical aspects of sustainability are partly understood. Practices that can cause long-term damage to soil include excessive tillage (leading to erosion) and irrigation without adequate drainage (leading to salinization). Long-term experiments have provided some of the best data on how various practices affect soil properties essential to sustainability. There is a federal agency, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service that specializes in providing technical and financial assistance for those interested in pursing natural resource conservation and production agriculture as compatible goals.

The most important factors for an individual site are sun, air, soil and water. Of the four, water and soil quality and quantity are most amenable to human intervention through time and labour.

Although air and sunlight are available everywhere on Earth, crops also depend on soilnutrients and the availability of water. When farmers grow and harvest crops, they remove some of these nutrients from the soil. Without replenishment, land suffers from nutrient depletion and becomes either unusable or suffers from reduced yields. Sustainable agriculture depends on replenishing the soil while minimizing the use of non-renewable resources, such as natural gas (used in converting atmospheric nitrogen into synthetic fertilizer), or mineral ores (e.g., phosphate). Possible sources of nitrogen that would, in principle, be available indefinitely, include:

  1. recycling crop waste and livestock or treated humanmanure
  2. growing legume crops and forages such as peanuts or alfalfa that form symbioses with nitrogen-fixingbacteria called rhizobia
  3. industrial production of nitrogen by the Haber Process uses hydrogen, which is currently derived from natural gas, (but this hydrogen could instead be made by electrolysis of water using electricity (perhaps from solar cells or windmills)) or
  4. genetically engineering (non-legume) crops to form nitrogen-fixing symbioses or fix nitrogen without microbial symbionts.

The last option was proposed in the 1970s, but is only recently becoming feasible. Sustainable options for replacing other nutrient inputs (phosphorus, potassium, etc.) are more limited.

More realistic, and often overlooked, options include long-term crop rotations, returning to natural cycles that annually flood cultivated lands (returning lost nutrients indefinitely) such as the Flooding of the Nile, the long-term use of biochar, and use of crop and livestock landraces that are adapted to less than ideal conditions such as pests, drought, or lack of nutrients.

Crops that require high levels of soil nutrients can be cultivated in a more sustainable manner if certain fertilizer management practices are adhered to.


In some areas, sufficient rainfall is available for crop growth, but many other areas require irrigation. For irrigation systems to be sustainable they require proper management (to avoid salinization) and must not use more water from their source than is naturally replenished, otherwise the water source becomes, in effect, a non-renewable resource. Improvements in water well drilling technology and submersible pumps combined with the development of drip irrigation and low pressure pivots have made it possible to regularly achieve high crop yields where reliance on rainfall alone previously made this level of success unpredictable. However, this progress has come at a price, in that in many areas where this has occurred, such as the Ogallala Aquifer, the water is being used at a greater rate than its rate of recharge.

Several steps should be taken to develop drought-resistant farming systems even in "normal" years, including both policy and management actions: 1) improving water conservation and storage measures, 2) providing incentives for selection of drought-tolerant crop species, 3) using reduced-volume irrigation systems, 4) managing crops to reduce water loss, or 5) not planting at all.


Soil erosion is fast becoming the one of the worlds greatest problems. It is estimated that "more than a thousand million tonnes of southern Africa's soil are eroded every year. Experts predict that crop yields will be halved within thirty to fifty years if erosion continues at present rates." Soil erosion is not unique to Africa but is occurring worldwide. The phenomenon is being called Peak Soil as present large scale factory farming techniques are jeop

From Yahoo Answers

Question:Cultivation of two or more crops together in the same field is 1. Mixed Cropping 2. Intercropping 3. crop rotation 4. all the above

Answers:4. all the above. Mixed cropping is growing of two or more crops simultaneously, Inter cropping is growing of different crops in close proximity, Crop rotation is growing of different crops in subsequent seasons.

Question:Is it possible if all our governments , developed nations collectively lease the land , irrespective of political boundaries and start investing , growing crops ? This is some thing like , sharing the resources among us.

Answers:I have read somewhere in doctor clinic- prevention is better than cure, means if we save some money than it equal to earn money. This formula is also apply in food, normally we waste lots of food, stop wasting. # Step 1 Increase educational opportunities. Only 33 percent of farmers were high school graduates in 1964; by 1990, the number was 67 percent. Farmers will need to deal with increasingly complex agricultural practices and systems. # Step 2 Continue development of disease-resistant seed and plants and do more research on pesticides. From 1948-1996, pesticide use increased 6.42 percent per year, resulting in increased crop yields. # Step 3 Be aware of both positive and negative impacts on productivity. Fertilizer has increased crop yields but there are now more than 400 dead zones in the oceans where fish cannot live because of oxygen depletion, primarily caused by plant fertilizer contamination. # Step 4 Take care of agricultural land. More than 20 percent of the world's cultivated areas have severe land degradation caused by nutrient depletion, erosion and loss of water retention capacity. Reforestation and improved management is bringing some degraded lands back into productivity in North America, Europe and China, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization

Question:Brenda Walker Archive Email a Friend... Printer Friendly Version... September 12, 2003 Mexico s Rich Don t Like To Pay Taxes They Think You Should By Brenda Walker [More by Brenda Walker] Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States" is an early example of the now-familiar annoying whine, first voiced by Mexican President Porfirio Diaz . Pathetic loser, mooch, social basket case, criminal narco-state: these are Americans' mental pictures of Mexico. But more than any other, the image is one of staggering poverty. Anyone who has been to a Mexican border town is immediately overwhelmed by the Third World - the oppressive dirt, decay, too many underfed children. However, the truth is that Mexico is a very wealthy country. It is blessed with abundant natural resources and a fortunate location. Mexico is the richest nation in Latin America when measured by GDP, and by a wide margin: in 2001, Mexico's GDP was the highest in Latin America, a substantial 22.5 percent more than runner-up Brazil. When GDP per capita is the gauge, Mexico is second only behind Argentina. Half of all Latin American billionaires, 11 out of 22, are Mexicans. Mexico is the quintessential banana republic a corrupt oligarchy of arrogant rich, a tiny middle class and millions of poor people, around half of whom live in poverty. But Mexico is not poor overall. It has the resources to improve itself. Economist Gary Hufbauer of the Institute for International Economics recently noted that Mexico has tax collections that amount to only 14 percent of the country's gross domestic profit, compared with the U.S. level of 25 to 28 percent. Hubauer s conclusion: "Basically the wealthy classes do not want to tax themselves, period." Hufbauer further remarked: "Basic social services and infrastructure are awfully lean for a country that wants to move ahead. While I'm not usually an advocate for larger government, Mexico is a country where public investment, done wisely, could pay huge dividends." Arguably, with adequate taxation of its freeloader rich, Mexico could follow the example of the Asian tiger nations and invest its way into economic progress by building industrial infrastructure and educating its workforce. The recent loss of Mexican jobs to China was partially due to the lack of capital spending on education, ports, roads and industrial parks. But investment would cost money. And Mexico refuses to take responsibility for the social needs of its population. It's so much easier to let the Americans care for Mexico's poor. Indeed, the Mexican propaganda war to convince Americans of the need to support poor Mexico has been largely successful. Washington's current degree of solicitude for the well being of Mexicans is quite astonishing, particularly at a time when Americans are suffering the highest unemployment in nine years. Congress and the President are considering various welfare packages for Mexico; such as Sen. McCain's "guest worker" plan (where the "guests" never leave). On July 10, the Senate passed a bill to provide $100 million in microloans for the poorest regions of Mexico. It's stunning that Congress would vote to provide financial aid to wealthy Mexico when 47 U.S. states have severe budget deficits and federal red ink is the highest ever. Central to Mexican strategy is maintaining the billions of dollars in remittance money flowing south, thereby keeping a lid on social unrest among the masses. In that way, the oligarchy preserves its enormous power and riches. The immigration scam is very successful: the rulers export their unemployment to the United States and get back billions in remittance cash annually 2003 is on track to rack up a record $11 billion. Talk about easy money: the worse the oligarchy run the country, the more people leave and send back money. Furthermore, every social service for illegal aliens and legal immigrants financed by the American taxpayer medical care, K-12 education, college tuition breaks, housing vouchers and food stamps frees up more money for remittances. Recent surveys show half of Latino immigrants send money home, with a monthly average amount of $250. Mexico's propaganda effort is helped enormously by the annual carnage of unprepared walkers who die in the desert as they illegally cross into the U.S. Predictably, the May death of 19 people in an unventilated truck in Texas incited anti-borders extremists to pile blame on American immigration law. Mexico would prefer that all its excess workers could cross an unenforced border to keep remittance dollars flowing. Washington is currently focused on building democracy in Iraq at a cost of $4 billion per month. But should this effort really be at the top of our national priorities? A much smaller investment could bring our southern border under control and would lower the threat of terrorists entering there. The expanding power of lawless elements in Mexican society, e.g. narco-traffickers, must be recognized as a security threat - particularly with recent reports of connections between Mexican drug cartels and terrorists, including al Qaeda. Border control is now critical to national security. There's no reason why Mexico cannot evolve from being a parasite state into an adult nation. Washington was optimistic when opposition party candidate Vicente Fox won the presidency. But the Fox administration has only displayed more of the same tiresome dependence. Apparently the current system is just too easy and profitable for the insatiable ruling class. Tough immigration enforcement from the United States is the only way to force Mexico to get its act together. If Mr. Bush still thinks of Vicente Fox as his good friend, the President will help wean his pal from the distasteful immigration addiction that keeps Mexico mired in the Third World. Tough love - border and interior enforcement is the true expression of caring. Faced with the unavoidable necessity of fixing their country, Mexicans would have to insist that the country be run for the benefit of all - not for the gluttonous few. Brenda Walker [email her] is a writer living in California. She publishes two websites, LimitsToGrowth.org and www.ImmigrationsHumanCost.org. She recently advanced the ingenious suggestion that remittances be taxed in order to pay for illegal immigrant healthcare costs borne by border hospitals. for links in this article go to: http://www.vdare.com/walker/mexico_the_rich.htm

Answers:That's a long article....I just got back from D.F and Taxco, you see huddle masses of poor and a very few rich and virtually no middle class.....Its the same everywhere.....The very rich here also get away with paying fewer taxes....The difference is, we have a much larger middle class than Mexico, so are are able to pay into the system, the middle class....In Mexico, the disparity between rich and poor is much greater....They have no middle class compared to US....With no middle class, who pays for services? The poor?

Question:can some one identify one change that could be made in the agricultural production of food which would, in your view, improve the environmental sustainability. and then please mention how the advantages might outweigh the disadvantages of your suggestion. thanks in advanced!

Answers:What is useful in one place is not useful everywhere. There are large parts of the world that could benefit from a large new resource of water for irrigation, then when I look out into my fields and realize that my wheat crop is struggling with too much water. We can drain that land into a storage reservoir. We can reclaim it for irrigation. But after 2 years of excess rain, where to store it? Some water drainage and storage operations need to be at a continental level rather than just farm by farm. Society as a whole may need to invest to ensure that the flood waters of one area become the reserve waters of other areas. Storage and use elsewhere is more sustainable within a reasonable distance than desalination and then pumping the resultant water a comparable distance. But both options may be needed, not necessarily for the same areas. THe southern Sahara for example is closer to surplus water from the Niger and Congo rivers than it is to an ocean, other than for the Atlantic coast or Ethiopa. Storage of large volumes of flood water also must not keep those flood waters on the farm land they start from. Too much water is as bad as none.

From Youtube

Innovations 2, Food Quality and Safety :Learn how researchers are helping to improve food nutritional content by creating better crops through this discussion with Leon H. Slaughter, professor and associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) at the University of Maryland at College Park; Mickey Parish, professor and chair of the nutrition and food sciences department at the University of Marylands AGNR; and Jose Costa, professor in the AGNRs plant science and landscape architecture department. The program also covers food safety issues in the United States and also how to improve food preparation in the home.

Modernization of the African agriculture- and food industry : Adaptation to climate change :Africa has not only the potential to feed its people, with its abundant and diverse resources, Africa is an economic area and partner to the world, that is increasingly supplying agricultural commodities and processed agricultural products and foods. This is a key message of a roundtable with over 150 participants that took place on 15 January 2010 in the context of Global Forum for Food and Agriculture 2010 in Berlin. The high-level event was organized by GTZ on behalf of BMELV and brought together development experts, decision-makers and private-sector representatives. There was concensus that business as usual will not be sufficient to set the scene for a highly productive and sustainable African agriculture and food industry in the future. A paradigm shift is needed. Some key requirements are: : -Agriculture and rural areas must be multifunctional, and any strategy must take into account the role of smallholder farmers -Capacity development is crucial -Partnerships with the private sector should be enhanced -A transparent and reliable regulatory and good governance must be in place -Products must be improved and markets be developed to provide best chances to serve national and international needs -in the face of a changing climate sustainable or even mitigating agricultural practices are inevitable Speakers: Dr. Hans-Joachim Preu (Managing Director, GTZ); Dr. Hans Herren (President of Millennium Institute); Dr. Ramadjita Tabo (Deputy Director, Forum for Agricultural ...