Moving beyond conventional farming to protect the environment
Ramesh Chaurasia-Moving beyond conventional farming to protect the environment
The onset of the green revolution revolutionized the entire agricultural sector of our country by giving a boost to conventional farming. It introduced modern agricultural practices such as the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, high-yielding variety seeds, and irrigation facilities. After the green revolution, India became surplus in foodgrains as it led to a three-fold increase in the production of foodgrains within a decade. But this came with a huge number of serious downsides.
The perils of conventional farming
Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are one of the major components of conventional farming. Although they play a gigantic role in increasing crop yields, their indiscriminate use causes a detrimental impact on the environment.
These nitrogen and phosphorus-rich fertilizers find their way to water bodies where their accumulation leads to a condition of excessive nutrients called eutrophication. Eutrophication is responsible for the unrestricted growth of algae also referred to as algal blooms and the creation of dead water zones.
Nitrogen-based fertilizers also form and emit nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, which is one of the most harmful greenhouse gases.
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The overuse of fertilizers degrades the soil by altering its pH level and reducing the organic matter of the soil.
There are several negative effects of irrigation activities as well. These include:
Waterlogging due to inadequate drainage and over-irrigation. Soil becomes saturated with water and this reduces the availability of oxygen to the roots of the crops significantly.
Salinization of the soil occurs as a result of the use of groundwater or surface water containing minerals. When the water evaporates, it leaves behind enormous quantities of salt which is harmful for the crops.
The environmental friendly alternatives
The burning environmental concerns associated with conventional agricultural practices can be solved with sustainable methods. Let us have a look at some of them:-
1) Organic Farming
Organic farming is a great sustainable agricultural practice that does not use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides but instead focuses on the use of biological fertilizers obtained from the wastes of animals and plants. It promotes the use of the following sustainable practices:
Crop rotation is the practice of growing two or more crops in the same field according to the seasons. This does not only increases the overall yield but also replenishses the soil’s nutrients.
Mixed cropping in which two crops are grown in a field at the same time.
Permaculture is a holistic approach for growing crops. It is constructed around three works on the following principles:
Observe and Interact- By observing and engaging with the environment, we can devise strategies that are best suited for them.
Catch and store energy- We should develop ways to collect resources when they are available in abundance so that they can be used at the time of their scarcity. Rainwater harvesting is one of the practices that is based on this principle.
Obtain a yield- Ensuring that you are getting enough yield for the efforts you are putting in.
Apply self regulation and accept feedback- This will prevent you from engaging in any inappropriate or unsustainable practice.
Use and value renewable resources- The biggest advantage of permaculture is that it asks people to make a gradual shift from non renewable resources to renewable ones.
Produce no waste- Utilizing all the available resources efficiently such that no waste is produced.
Design from pattern to details- This principle asks us to use the patterns of the nature in our favour instead of going against them. For instance, if someone is practising agriculture on arid or semi-arid land then they should grow dry crops instead of water-intensive ones.
Integrate rather than segregate- Permaculture focus on integrating various things so that they work together and support each other. Agroforestry can be a brilliant example for this.
Use small and slow solutions- Laying small steps slowly will help us analyse their effects and make corrections.
Use and value diversity- Instead of monocropping, permaculture encourages growing diverse crops as a diverse system is less vulnerable to threats.
Use edges and value the marginal- Here edge refers to the place where two ecosystems meet. Making use of the edge while valuing the marginal is the key. Marginal includes the people at the edge.
Creatively use and respond to change- This involves making your system resilient to predictable changes as well as addressing unpredictable changes in a creative manner when they arrive.
In the end
It is time that we put a halt to the degradation of environment caused by the agriculture sector. I feel that for this there is an urgent need to work towards practices and devise strategies such that the focus is on environmental preservation while at the same time on producing sufficient foodgrains to meet the demands of the rapidly growing population and profiting the farmers.
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A superior and highly experienced entrepreneur in the field of business for quite a long time now. Also, a philanthropist, author and public speaker who believes in working towards the overall well being and betterment of the society as a whole.