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Significance of Sustainable Agriculture

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 3472 words Published: 4th Oct 2017

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  • Ahmad Fitri Bin Jamaludin

Table of Contents (Jump to)

CHAPTER 1: Introduction

CHAPTER 2: Roles of Sustainable Agriculture

CHAPTER 3: Importance of Sustainable Agriculture



CHAPTER 1: Introduction

Sustainable agriculture is the production of agricultural goods, necessary to satisfy the needs of present and future generations, in order to protect the components of natural factors, like water, air and soil. Technologies and production approaches that meet ecological environmental development requirements is being used for sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agricultural requires the prevention of ecological crises, like major accidents, with strong negative impact on the environment.

Source: http://www.saiplatform.org/sustainable-agriculture/definition

In the diagram, we can see that economy, environment and society play a major role to achieve sustainable agriculture.

Environmental problems happen on big geographic areas, starting with the local level, on-going with the regional and ending on a global level. The global level prevents environmental issues from getting resolved and needs other global approaches.

Globalization is an objective developing process of contemporary world that has a great potential for making the world better. The key causes of globalization are represented by two processes which are technological and political. The technological process consists in a strong and rapid development of communications and transport. The means of communication allow people to connect and interact on large geographical areas. The vehicles let people to move and interact in a short time over long distances.

Political processes have made national borders easier to pass or disappear by creating international organizations. Environmental issues are related to contemporary social economic development. The main socio-economic issues to be addressed are combating poverty, changing consumption and production structures, demographic dynamics, environmental and human health protection.

The survival of the society as a whole is influenced by individual behaviour and the behaviour of various communities.

CHAPTER 2: Roles of Sustainable Agriculture

Economy Roles

A farm must be economically viable in order to be truly sustainable. The environmental and social advantages of sustainable production methods do not always interpret into immediate economic improvements. Hence, sustainable agriculture practices can have a positive economic impression on a farm. For example, diversifying the farm with several crops and markets helps to reduce financial risk. Over time, improved soil and water quality, as well as other environmental benefits from sustainable practices, may raise the value of the farm. Selling products directly to local markets in the community reduces shipping and fuel costs and can potentially decrease transportation costs. While sustainably grown produce may not bring the full price premiums sometimes paid for certified organic products, growers selling directly to individuals and specialty markets can still capture added value. Production costs can be variously affected by sustainable methods. Fertilizer and pesticide costs are generally reduced on a sustainably managed farm because, for example, legumes and crop rotations tend to be less expensive than their synthetic alternatives. Labour costs are often higher than conventional systems. The higher labour costs are most often attributed to the increased time required for monitoring and managing pests on sustainable farms. Planting material costs can be lower for growers saving their own seed or producing their own stock. However, those using organic planting material often pay more for seed or other planting material.

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Machinery costs (purchase, fuel, and repairs) will vary depending on the specific type of sustainable production system. Conservation tillage systems and reduced pesticide applications can cut costs related to machinery use and fuel costs. On the other hand, certain systems, such as ridge tillage, can require specialized equipment. Fuel and machinery costs can increase as a result of moving bulky materials, such as organic matter, for soil improvement purposes. The result is that some farms that utilize sustainable agriculture practices may be more profitable than their conventional farming counterparts, although the reverse can also be true. In addition to crop production methods, many other factors can affect the bottom line, including management, marketing skills, and experience.

Social Responsibility

Social sustainability relates to the quality of life for those who work and live on the farm, as well as those in the local community. Fair treatment of workers, positive farm family relationships, personal interactions with consumers, and choosing to purchase supplies locally (rather than from a more distant market) are just some of the aspects considered in social sustainability. Community supported agriculture (CSA), farmers markets, U-pick, cooperatives, and on-farm events are just some of the ways a sustainable farm can have a positive impact on the local community. In essence, the farm supports the community and the community supports the farm.

According to ATTRA (2003), there are few actions need to be done in order to achieve the social sustainability which resulting the sustainable agriculture. First, the farm should support other businesses and families in community. The money should just circulate within local economy. Young people should take over their parents’ farms and continue farming.

Research for Sustainable Agriculture Future

Sustainable agriculture represents for farmers and rural communities, federal investments in research, education, and extension geared for sustainable agricultural systems have been woefully inadequate. National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition(NSAC) recognizes that without sufficient resources for relevant research, education, and extension, farmers and ranchers will be unable to access new and emerging innovations, information and markets that will help them expand their businesses, conserve natural resources, and address food and nutrition needs in their communities. Throughout 2013, NSAC worked to increase federal resources and funding for sustainable agriculture research, education, and extension in recognition of the critical importance that research plays in ensuring success and innovation across all sectors of agriculture (NSAC, 2013).

In 2013, NSAC continued its efforts to secure increased funding and support for critical agriculture research programs, like the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE). SARE, US Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s flagship program for sustainable agriculture, recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, thanks in large part to NSAC’s continued advocacy over the years. NSAC also fought to restore and increase funding for critical research programs that are currently “stranded” due to the farm bill expiration last fall, including those programs that support research on organic production, specialty crops, and beginning farmer and ranchers, such as the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Program and the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program.

The Organic Production and Marketing Data Initiatives program (ODI) is a valuable resource that provides policymakers, organic farmers, and organic businesses the data they need to make sound policy, business, and marketing decisions. This year, NSAC continued to advocate for this important annual funding stream, especially as USDA gears up to release its next comprehensive Census of Agriculture in 2014 and follow up survey of organic producers. NSAC also successfully secured a coveted spot on USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) Advisory Committee, which sets priorities and provides recommendations for future federal data collection efforts through the Department of Agriculture. By having a seat at the table, NSAC will more effectively be able to highlight the critical importance of collecting reliable data for sustainable producers including organic farmers and those growing for local and regional markets.

CHAPTER 3: Importance of Sustainable Agriculture

There is a lot of importance of sustainable agriculture. The main significance is to make sure that the agriculture on supplying goods, food, water, air and soil satisfy the need of present and future.

Future Predictions

Source: Crop Breeding for Low Input Agriculture: A sustainable Response to feed a Growing Population Growth

Figure above show the world population is increasing and the availability of resources statistic and prediction. It summarize that the number of resources going to decrease as the population increase. In order to stabilize the output of crops and goods, the sustainable agriculture has to be done.

Environmental Factors

Environmental concerns are vital to sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture is frequently described as ecologically sound practices that have little to no adverse effect on natural ecosystems. However, more than that, sustainable agriculture also seeks to have a positive impact on natural resources and wildlife. This can often mean taking measures to reverse the damage. For example, soil erosion or draining of wetlands that have already occurred through harmful agricultural practices. Renewable natural resources are protected, recycled, and even replaced in sustainable systems. Also inherent to sustainable agriculture environmental concerns is the stewardship of non-renewable resources, such as fossil fuels.

A key to successful sustainable production is healthy soil, with a central tenet that management practices “feed the soil and the soil feeds the crop.” Ecologically, this means that soil fertility is provided by adequate soil organic matter and biologically based inputs that feed soil organisms, which release nutrients to plants. Sustainable methods of enhancing soil fertility and improving soil health include: using nitrogen-fixing legumes, green manure, and animal manure; minimizing or eliminating tillage; and maintaining year round soil cover. However, depending on the condition of the soil, establishing healthy soils may take several years. This approach does not preclude the use of synthetic fertilizer that can be used to supplement natural inputs. However, fertilizer decisions are based upon soil test results and are applied on as needed basis. Synthetic chemicals known to harm soil organisms and soil structure must be avoided in sustainable agriculture.

Source: Sustainable Agriculture (John, Robert, James, 1990)

Combination of crops, or of crops and livestock, make farms more sustainable by maintaining soil productivity and by reducing a farm’s reliance on a single crop. On the farm shown above, the parallel strips of land have been planted on the contour of the terrain with oats (yellow) or corn or alfalfa (both green). Within each strip, crops rotate on a four-year cycle: corn (a one-year crop) is replaced by oats (another one-year crop), which is then replaced by alfalfa (a two-year crop). Such rotations improve the control of weeds, insects and diseases; they also improve the efficiency of nutrient cycling. Contour strip-cropping greatly reduces soil erosion.

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Other sustainable concepts include maximizing diversity through planned crop rotations, intercropping, and companion planting; protecting water quality; composting; year round soil cover; integrating crop and animal production; soil conservation practices; and attracting beneficial wildlife (Mark,Krista,Matt, 2012). A few traditional agricultural practices, such as moldboard plowing, are in conflict with sustainability since they can result in damage to soil structure. Rather, tillage practices should be appropriately timed, using implements that minimize damage to soil structure to the greatest extent possible.

Insects, diseases, and weeds are managed, rather than controlled, in sustainable systems. The goal is not necessarily the complete elimination of a pest, but rather to manage pests and diseases to keep crop damage within acceptable economic levels. Sustainable pest management practices emphasize prevention through good production and cultural methods. Some strategies include: using crop rotations that will disrupt the pest life cycle, improving soil quality, practicing good sanitation, using optimum planting densities, timing planting and transplanting operations to avoid high pest populations, employing biological control, and growing resistant varieties. Monitoring pests through frequent crop inspections and accurate identification are essential to keeping ahead of potential problems. Integrated Pest Management techniques can be incorporated into a sustainable program. These may include scouting, targeting pesticide applications, and the use of biological pest controls. Pesticides are seen as a last resort when using IPM methods, and are chosen for their low toxicity, specificity to the pest, and lack of persistence in the soil.

Achieving a healthy, balanced ecosystem takes time. Making the transition to sustainable farming is a process that generally requires moving forward step-by-step. While there are common goals that are critical to sustainable agriculture, there is no single approach that will guarantee sustainable success on every farm. The methods for accomplishing those goals must be tailored to the individual farm.

Scarcity of Land

Land is one of the resources that going to deplete across with the world population. There are some 5 billion hectares of land presently available for the global food supply: 1.5 billion hectares of farmland and permanent crops as well as 3.5 billion hectares of grassland, grazing land and extensively used steppe (Warner, 2008). Of this land, 1.9 billion hectares have already been degraded to a greater or lesser extent due to intensive and improper use (IAASTD, 2008).

According to figures from the UN convention on desertification, 80 per cent of the agricultural land has been damaged by erosion to a moderate to considerable degree (David, 1995). Ten million hectares are lost to erosion every year. That is ten times the amount of arable land in Switzerland.

And even in the developing world, expanding settlements are increasingly devouring farmland. All told, the rate of annual loss of farmland is 1.3 per cent (David, 2005).

The need to stop the loss of farmland is urgent. This includes regenerating depleted soils so they can be uses in the future with sustainable production methods. Compost has a key role to play here.

Profit Factors

Source: Sustainable Agriculture (John, Robert, James, 1990)

Profits from sustainable farms can exceed those of conventional farms, according to Steven L. Kraten, formerly of Washington State University. The cash incomes per acre for the two types of farms were comparable over two years, but because the input costs of sustainable agriculture are lower, its net returns are 22.4 percent higher. Variable costs include those for fuel, machinery maintenance, seed, fertilizer, pesticide and labor. Among the fixed costs are property taxes and interest on loans. The sustainable agriculture has proved since 90s that it will give more profit compared to conventional sustainable.

Rural Economies

Among the unseen costs of industrial food production are its effects on small family farms and rural communities, which include the loss of nearly four million farms in the United States since the 1930s (Gorelick, 2012).

Sustainable farms cater local economies by providing jobs for members of the community and purchasing supplies from local businesses. A study by University of Minnesota showed that small farms with gross incomes of $100,000 or less made almost 95 percent of farm-related expenditures within their local communities (Chism, 1994). Research has shown that small-locally owned farms have a multiplier effect for every cent the farm spends, a percentage remains in the local economy, contributing to the community’s economic health (Swenson, 2009).

Factory farms hire as few workers as possible and often purchase supplies, equipment and animal feed from the same agricultural conglomerates that purchase their products (Weida, 2004). The University of Minnesota found that large farms with gross incomes greater than $900,000 made less than 20 percent of farm related expenditures locally(Chism,1994) Industrial farms often have absentee owners whose profits are sent out of town.


In conclusion, the sustainable agriculture helps society, environment as well as economic in positive way.


ATTRA. 2003: Applying the Principles of Sustainable Farming http://www.clemson.edu/sustainableag/IP107_Applying_Sust_Farming.pdf

NSAC. 2013, Annual Report 2013

John P. Reganold, Robert I. Papendick and James F. Parr. 1990: Sustainable Agriculture, 9-10.

Mark Keating, Krista Jacobse, Matt Barton. 2012: University Kentucky: Sustainable Agriculture

Werner Harder, BLW, BAFU magazine Umwelt 2/2008

International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development IAASTD, Global Summary for Decision Makers, 2008, www.agassessment.org.

David Pimentel et al., Environmental and Economic Costs of Soil Erosion and Conservation Benefits, Science, vol. 267, 24/2/1995

World Population, Agriculture, and Malnutrition − David Pimentel and Anne Wilson; Published on 1 Jan 2005 by WorldWatch / Constructive Creativity

Gorelick, S., & Norberg-Hodge, H. (2002). Bringing the food economy home.International Society for Ecology & Culture. Retrieved August 28, 2012.

Chism, J. W., & Levins, R. A. (1994). Farm spending and local selling: How do they match up?Minnesota Agricultural Economist, 676.

Swenson, D. (2009). Economic impact of a diversified small farming operation in Woodbury county. Department of Economics, Iowa State University.

Weida, W. J. (2004). Considering the rationales for factory farming. Environmental Health Impacts of CAFOs: Anticipating Hazards – Searching for Solutions. Retrieved August 23, 2012


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