Increased food production in India was made possible by the employment of modern technology in agriculture. The increase in the productivity is mainly due to rapid rise in overall area under cultivation of cereals. To maintain the crops and productivity, we have to expand irrigation facilities and use large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides.
This overexploitation had resulted in the degradation of soils and their erosion. Due to degeneration in soil fertility, the traditional varieties of crop plants as cultivated in earlier periods got disappeared or are on the brink of extinction. Our agriculture is slowly being converted into an unsustainable system in the years to come, as the cost of chemicals and fertilizers, labour, cost of seeds are going to make the agricultural products costlier.
This will affect millions of uneducated farmers. Hence, to remedy this situation, we will have to find alternative permanent arrangements in sustainable agriculture.
To protect the interest of the farmers on their agricultural lands and capital investments, sustainable agriculture which is the best source of alternative method should be compulsorily taken up and practiced by the traditional farmers. Sustainable agriculture can be carried on without any threat to our soils, environment, plants and animal communities. Excessive drainage of our energy and material resources can be considerably saved and protected when sustainable agriculture is intensively taken up by the farmers and practiced. This can be achieved by
1. Maintaining a healthy soil community which can automatically regenerate soil fertility by providing organic manures, increasing fallow periods, avoiding excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
2. Infusing bio-diversity in agriculture by sowing mixed crops, crop rotation etc.
3. The use of alternative food sources which may reduce overdependence to certain crops.
Men are exploiting only few species of crop plants as food and cultivate only about 15 species of plants as food crops to feed 90 per cent of the world's population. There are thousands of species of plants with useful and edible parts which can serve as a food source for the mankind. This will widen our resource base on food crops and add sustainability to supplies by reducing the dependence on a few species. eg. Winged bean which has high protein and oil. Leaves of Ilex paraguriensis, which can be a substitute for tea and powdered seeds of Cola nitida instead of coffee.
Farmers should practice 'organic farming' so that it will not disturb the ecosystem of the cultivable area and leads to sustainable yields at low costs, both to the farmer and to nature. Chemicals, minerals, pesticides and insecticides are now categorised under non-renewable resource materials. Therefore, in the long-term strategy, these materials will make farming non-sustainable and non-productive. Shifting to original and excessive use of organic manure, rotation of leguminous or nitrogen fixing crops, use of VAM fungi, transgenic crop and application of biofertilizer are being encouraged and practiced.
Sustainable agriculture includes scientific methods of farming that utilise renewable resources, increase in yield, avoidance of manmade complex substances known as Xenobiotics which are used as insecticides and pesticides that cause pollution to soil and environment. Plant tissue culture and biotechnology also play a major role in this. 50 varieties of rice and 20 varieties in wheat have been developed in China by using these new techniques without damaging the environment. New disease resistant virus free plants and stress resistant plants, are successfully produced. Similarly, transfer of nif (nitrogen fixing) gene to non-leguminous crops will improve higher yield. Biotechnology and tissue culture contributed more to sustainable agriculture by providing biofertilizer, biopesticides, disease and insect resistant varieties through creation of transgenic crops, single cell protein, production of valuable pharmaceutical products and herbal drugs (Ginseng Vinca, Emetine from Cephalis) by using micropropagation technique.
To conclude Sustainable agriculture is an eco-friendly farming system associated with production of food while maintaining on biophysical resources including soil, water, biota with no adverse impacts on the environment. So it should
1. maintain or improve the production of clean food.
2. maintain or improve the quality of landscape which includes soil, water, biota and aesthetics
3. have minimal impact on the environment.
4. be economically viable and
5. be acceptable to society.
Sustainable farming uses ecofriendly fertilizers, and pesticides and modern technologies, such as improved seed, modern equipments for low-tillage practices, pest control using biological control principles and weed control that depends on crop rotations. Sustainable farms try to use wind or solar energy instead of purchased energy and use organic manure and nitrogen fixing legumes as green manures to maintain soil fertility thereby reducing supply from outside farms. The emphasis is on maintaining the environment without causing any pollution.
Organic farming is defined as production systems which avoids the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators and livestock feed additives. It depends upon crop rotation, crop residues, animal manures, legumes, green manures, off-farm organic wastes using mechanical cultivation, biological pest control (biopesticides) to maintain soil productivity and to supply plant nutrients and to control insects, weeds and pests.
additives. It depends upon crop rotation, crop residues, animal manures, legumes, green manures, off-farm organic wastes using mechanical cultivation, biological pest control (biopesticides) to maintain soil productivity and to supply plant nutrients and to control insects, weeds and pests.