All this week on Table Talk, we are talking sustainability. We will start to unpack the questions: Will future generations be able to meet their own needs? Is my farming system sustainable? In this second blog for the week, we ask: What are some specific sustainable farming practices? (Don’t forget to check out our first post: What is sustainable agriculture? What does it all really mean?
Practitioners of sustainable agriculture seek to integrate three main objectives into their work:
- a healthy environment
- economic profitability
- and social and economic equity
Farmers have implemented holistic systems such as integrated pest management and rotational grazing. We have also embraced new technologies such as the use of satellite positioning systems to assist in land management to minimise soil compaction and to help map salinity and other soil properties.
The report “Farm Smarter, Not Harder”, looks at how Australian agricultural industries are already developing and implementing agricultural practices that are better matched to our soils and climate. Some have been widely implemented, such as conservation agriculture, controlled traffic, precision ag and IPM.
In the report, they also provide some background on these sustainable agricultural practices and the potential benefits:
- A suite of management processes that reduce soil disturbance through minimum tillage, maintenance of crop residue in the soil following harvest, and crop rotation.
- Reduces erosion through increased groundcover and minimised damage to soil structure.
- Improves soil moisture and nutrient retention.
- Lowers machinery, labour, and maintenance costs
Controlled Traffic Farming
- A group of management practices that reduce the impact of farm machinery on soils by restricting wheeled equipment to particular routes and maintaining consistent traffic patterns
- Avoids widespread soil compaction, and allows water to penetrate the soil more easily.
- Can allow for re-planting right after harvesting and double cropping
- Using knowledge of differences between paddocks in crop yields, soil surface cover, elevation, and other characteristics to determine most efficient management practices (i.e. selective fertilizer and herbicide application)
- Reduces input costs as well as fertilizer and chemical use while improving profits and reducing environmental impact
- One recent study suggests that matching rates of application of nitrogen fertilizer to soil depth could increase gross margins from wheat production by 1 per cent in an ‘average year’, but up to 11 per cent in a year with poor weather (in comparison to applying fertilizer uniformly).