If you’re involved in agriculture, even on a small scale, chances are you’ve heard about sustainable farming before. On the off chance that you haven’t, sustainable farming, simply put, is a group of practices designed to protect the earth from potential harm that growing crops and raising animals for food purposes can do.
However, for many farmers, sustainable farming seems like an unreachable goal, and one that will make day-to-day operations too costly. While that may be true of very expensive processes that involve full-scale renovations to a farm or growing land, there are many sustainable farming practices that can be easily incorporated into your regular routine.
In fact, some can even save you money in the long run.
Poorly maintained irrigation systems and water waste are common problems among farms of all sizes, from small single-family farms to major farms that supply significant amounts of food for resale; however, managing your water consumption doesn’t have to be a chore.
The easiest and best way to manage your water use is by planting crops that naturally grow in the area. If you live in an area without a lot of rain, don’t plant crops that need considerable moisture on a regular basis in large quantities.
In addition to choosing the proper crops, irrigating your land properly and using cover crops that help the soil retain moisture for longer periods of time, therefore requiring less watering from you, can help reduce your overall water use.
Collecting rainwater is another option for many farmers, and that can save you money after your initial investment is paid back within a relatively short period of time.
Rotate Your Crops
Crop rotation is an old practice that teaches farmers to alternate their crops in order to keep their soil as healthy and nutrient-rich as possible. In some cases, crop rotation can be very simple.
For example, you should plant grains after legumes and crops that grow in rows after grains; however, depending on what you’re growing, it isn’t always that simple. Doing a little bit of homework on how to best rotate your specific crops is recommended.
The benefits of rotating your crops include prevention of disease transmission from crop to crop and a general reduction in the amount of pests in the soil that can damage crops.
Diversify Your Crops
Crop diversity takes the idea of crop rotation a step further, getting farmers to alternate the species of a certain type of crop when they grow it. This not only helps to keep soil nutrient-rich, but it also helps farmers protect their crops from diseases and pests.
Using a combination crop rotation and crop diversification method is ideal, and if you’re only growing a handful of crops each year, it is surprisingly simple to do.
Controlled Pest Management
Pest management is a serious concern for many farmers; however, simply spraying all of your crops isn’t in the best interest for the soil, your crops or the earth, and it doesn’t have to be done if you’re smart about how you plant your crops.
By rotating crops, diversifying your species and integrating beneficial insects that keep harmful pests out, you may not need to spray at all. If you do, you’ll be able to use a targeted-spray method, limiting your overall use of pesticides and chemicals.
Sustainable farming is more important today than it ever has been because of droughts in many areas and increased temperatures all over the globe. Even if you only grow a small amount of crops each year, using these basic sustainable growing practices can help reduce your farm’s environmental impact while saving you money in the process.
Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from Southern California who also works with Process Sensors. Her writing covers a range of industries, including travel, health, special needs education and technology.