Farmers play an important role in feeding the nation and the world with high-quality produce and livestock. With such a big job to do, some level of environmental impact is to be expected. At the same time, there are processes that can be followed to lessen this environmental impact, thus making the world healthier for future generations. This allows future farmers to continue to use the earth to provide for their and others’ needs, ensuring that everyone has access to nourishing food. To help in this pursuit, here are a few tips to help farmers improve their environmental impact.
One of the biggest challenges of farming is dealing with the runoff that occurs throughout the year. This is especially tough when the growing season is over and there aren’t various crops with roots to hold soil in place. One solution to this problem is to plant cover crops in vacant fields in-between growing seasons. These small, hardy plants can grow in conditions that aren’t favorable for other types of crops. The roots of these plants help hold onto soil, resulting in far less runoff.
If you have livestock on your farm, you likely have a wastewater pond where much of the waste from the livestock is sent to biodegrade. One way to make this process more environmentally friendly is to utilize a wastewater aeration system from places like VaraCorp. Systems like these introduce large amounts of oxygen into the water where the waste is. By introducing oxygen, aerobic bacteria are able to do most of the heavy lifting for decomposing waste. This allows for more complete biodegradation, producing carbon dioxide and water instead of methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas.
Tilling can make the process of planting a new crop far easier. At the same time, this overturning of the soil results in unstable soil that is more vulnerable to runoff. Additionally, more water is required for the planted crops because the exposed soil experiences higher evaporation. If you are able to plant crops without tilling, though, many of these problems can be solved. By disturbing only a small area of soil where the seeds are planted, the risk for runoff and evaporation is reduced. Plus, by leaving organic matter on the surface of the soil, even further soil retention is achieved.
Livestock, just like humans, need water to survive. Though you may provide adequate water supplies, your herd will still be drawn to natural water sources such as creeks and lakes. The problem with this is that as they enter and leave these natural sources of water, their heavy weight will cause significant erosion on the banks. Plus, since most animals use water sources as a natural toilet, there will be the potential for increased algae growth due to the extra nitrogen that’s present in the waste. Therefore, building fences around these bodies of water to prevent livestock from entering is a good, sustainable farming practice.
In many ways, farming is a practice that’s steeped in tradition. In order to remain sustainable for future generations, however, farming methods must evolve. As a farmer, then, it’s important that you’re willing to try new things to ensure your farm is as sustainable as possible.