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Sustainable Agriculture

What is sustainable agriculture?

(147 Kb JPEG)

Sustainable agriculture refers to a system capable of maintaining productivity and usefulness to society, indefinitely, at the same time as conserving resources and environmental health, being economically profitable and supporting social needs.

It rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

To be sustainable, agriculture must:

  • satisfy human food and fiber needs;
  • enhance environmental quality, biodiversity and the natural resource base on which agriculture depends;
  • make the most efficient use of non-renewable and on-farm resources;
  • be economically viable in the long term;
  • enhance quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.

Stewardship of both natural and human resources is of prime importance

 

Stewardship of both natural and human resources is of prime importance (36Kb JPEG)
Stewardship of both natural and human resources is of prime importance

The Challenge:

Global food production must double by 2050, because

  • world population will have risen to over 9 billion;
  • increased affluence in the developing world is driving consumption patterns towards protein rich meat based diets

Whilst

  • today one billion people go to bed hungry every day;
  • agricultural land is limited;
  • competition for natural resources gets fiercer; and still
  • 40% of global food production is lost in the field and storage

(Source: FAO, World Bank statistics, Syngenta)

Food demand is driven by population growth and land scarcity

Food demand is driven by population growth and land scarcity (39Kb JPEG)
Food demand is driven by population growth and land scarcity

The combination of the:

  • huge rise in demand for agricultural produce; coupled with
  • limited farmland; and
  • limited water supplies; mean that we
  • need to continue raising yields 

....we must do more with less. One approach is to unlock the potential of plants through innovation.

Contribution of modern technology

Modern agricultural technology has the potential to optimise the use of land, water and energy and create an economically viable production system that:

  • minimises soil erosion or even improves soil productivity;
  • improves water quality and promotes efficient use;
  • preserves biodiversity through conservation of plant varieties;
  • optimizes crop health;
  • increases crop yields;
  • improves rural incomes

Sustainable agriculture is a systems approach

Sustainable agriculture is a systems approach(32 Kb JPEG)

Sustainable agriculture is a process having:

  • small, realistic steps at farm level; where
  • family economics and personal goals influence how fast or how far participants can go with the transition to sustainable agriculture; it is the
  •  responsibility of all participants – farmers, labourers, policymakers, researchers, advisors, retailers and consumers; and
  • education, training and sharing of best practices are key

The role of pesticides

  • The use of pesticides increases food supplies by an average of 40% globally by reducing losses caused by pests, diseases and competing weeds.
  • Hand weeding is the predominant weed control practice in developing countries. In Africa, 69 percent of farmers’ children between the ages of 5-14 are forced to leave school and are employed in the agricultural sector especially at peak periods of weeding. Herbicide use would increase crop production by 20 – 50 percent due to improved weed control, freeing up resources to plant more fields or for children to return to school.
  • Use of non-selective herbicides in conservation agriculture may help improve soil health by allowing the increase of organic matter. Such soils are more stable, less prone to erosion and retain water better.
  • Using Integrated Pest Management practices, growers can improve crop quality while reducing residues, enabling them to meet strict quality standards of export markets and minimizing risks to beneficial insects.

Sources

FAO

World Bank Statistics 

SAREP University of California

USDA National Agricultural Library

Syngenta International AG 


 
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