Pests Bugging You? You re Not Alone
Pests Bugging You? You’re Not Alone
- 1 Pests Bugging You? You’re Not Alone
- 2 Agriculture Risk Innovation Challenge
- 3 Managing for and during drought
- 4 Featured
- 5 Podur — pests or indicator of improper agricultural technology
- 6 Digital Technologies in Agriculture: adoption, value added and overview
- 7 Precision Agriculture Technology Adoption
- 8 Potential Benefits And Value Added
- 9 Main Digital Technologies In Precision Farming
- 10 Field Monitoring
- 11 Data Management
- 12 Variable Rate Applications (VRA)
- 13 Automation In Agro Machinery
- 14 The Future Of Farming
- 15 Pennsylvania Mushroom Integrated Pest Management Handbook
- 16 Overview
- 17 Sustainable Agriculture
- 18 Water
- 19 Phosphate
- 20 Energy
- 21 Most Recent
- 22 These Hacks Can Save Your Plants — No Green Thumb Necessary!
- 23 What Foods Have Glyphosate?
- 24 Climate Change Could Destroy Vineyards, Collapse the Wine Industry
- 25 What It’s Like to Create New Non-Dairy Products for a Major Company
- 26 #TeamTrees Hits $20 Million Goal to Help Reforest the Earth
- 27 Is Organic Fertilizer Safe for Pets?
- 28 Ponix Is Bringing Local Produce to Food Deserts With Hydroponic Technology
- 29 What Are the Benefits of Okra?
- 30 Here’s What You Need to Know About Making Your Own Organic Bug Spray (And Weed Killer!)
- 31 Does Organic Mean All-Natural? Not Exactly — Here’s the Difference Between the Labels
- 32 Which Plants Attract Butterflies? Support Pollinators With a Butterfly Garden on Your Lawn
- 33 The World Can’t Survive Without the Amazon: Here’s Why
- 34 How to Protect Your Vegetable Garden From Animals
- 35 Why Is Locally Grown Food Better for the Environment?
- 36 How to Sustainably Shop at the Farmers Market: 7 of Our Best Tips
Some pests you would probably rather not see
April has been declared “National Pest Control Month,” so this is a good time to talk about one of those annoying realities of life – pests! Pests are something you will deal with whether you are a farmer, an organic farmer, a gardener, a home-owner, an apartment dweller, a hotelier, a restaurant owner or just about any other role. Sometimes they just a nuisance. Sometimes there are real health issues. As I’ve written before, pests are simply part of the natural order, and they even plague plants growing in the most pristine wilderness areas.
The question isn’t whether we have to deal with pests. It’s only how. I’d like to talk about a few statistics I’ve come across that give us a window on how we are all dealing with our pest challenges – particularly the 98+% of us who are not farmers.
Perhaps fittingly, as I sit down to write this post, I’ve just had to deal with three kinds of pests in my own suburban yard. I found some mosquito larvae swimming in a bit of standing water from a recent rain. In the age of Zika virus, that was definitely not OK! I then pulled some of endless weeds that somehow defeat my mulching efforts. Then I had to fish a dead gopher out of the pool. The critter has been mining my back yard and garden, so I can’t say that I was sad about its demise.
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Pests I Found In My Yard Just Today
One good indicator of the reality of pests is a quick look down the pest control product aisle at your local hardware or garden store. One source projects that the US home and garden pest control market is on track to reach $2.4 billion by 2020 growing at 3% per year. Obviously, many take a DIY approach to at least some pest problems.
There is also a large, professional, pest control sector. We can get some feel for the scale of that industry from a trade association web page that lists the top 100 such companies in North America. The list includes 11 companies over with over $100MM in revenues in 2014, and 54 more with at least $10MM.
An interesting window on professional pest control activity
One indication of the level of activity in the pest control business is given in some information shared for Pest Control Month by a company called Fleetmatics. They provide fleet tracking technology for many service sector businesses – the focus being efficient deployment and routing of vehicles and manpower. Their data shows that the pest control business is particularly busy. The 5,500 pest control vehicles they track made 11.5 million customer stops in 2015, averaging 10 stops per vehicle per day. Apparently, that is 37% more stops than for other service-based fleets (e.g. plumbers, electricians, internet service providers…). During the peak, summer season, the average stops/day frequently tops 13. At least for this company’s clients, the states with most pest control activity are spread broadly across the US. The top 10 states are shown on the infographic, but no state gets a pass from pests!
Fleetmatics put me in touch with Tyler Helton who runs a company in California called Knock Em Out Pest Control.
I learned several interesting things from Tyler:
- A majority of professional pest control customers are homeowners (60-65%), many are property managers or rental owners, and the remainder include restaurants, schools etc.
- The service calls are about evenly split between scheduled service visits and emergency/issue-driven requests.
- Rodents (rats and mice) are the biggest single pest driver, at least for this company, but bedbugs are an increasingly important issue. A company’s ability to deal with them is a differentiator in the market.
- The professional pest control business is growing, and smaller players are definitely able to make in-roads in the market.
Obviously, pesticides are a key part of the solution for these problems, but as in agriculture, they are only one part of an integrated system that includes several other tools (one of my most-read blog posts is titled “5 Ways That Farmers Control Pests Other Than Pesticides”).
For homes and businesses, the expert identification and blocking of entry points is an important strategy. Repellants are an attractive option. Trapping technologies are very important as a way to avoid unwanted exposure of people or pets to toxic agents. Traps are also widely used as a way to detect a new infestation so that it can be dealt with early before it becomes a big problem. One state-of-the-art approach is traps that can communicate back to the control company (e.g. via SMS) so that those busy service vans can be even more efficiently deployed.
One reason to talk about this annoying issue of pests is specifically to acknowledge that it is part of our common experience and something we need to address as best we can and without stigma. I recently heard a lecture about bedbug issues in schools while attending the 2016 Conference for the New Jersey Environmental Health Association. Apparently bedbugs are quite proficient at traveling between homes and schools by hitching rides on kid’s backpacks. The speaker strongly emphasized the importance of not stigmatizing the finding of these pests because their presence has no reflection on the cleanliness of a home. If a family discovers bedbugs, the best thing is to immediately inform the whole class so that other families can check for infestations. So with that example, I’ll leave you with the following advice from once my favorite characters, Wesley.
Agriculture Risk Innovation Challenge
March 09-April 02, 2020
The World Bank’s Agriculture Observatory, in conjunction with the Disaster Risk Financing and the Disaster Risk Management teams, and with the support of Draper University is launching three Agriculture Risk innovation challenges to harness new technology and data to address the agriculture and food security risks in Southern Africa. Applications are open until April 2 nd , 2020. These innovations can impact the lives of millions of people across Africa and around the world.
The Agriculture Risk innovation challenge is supported by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and The State and Peacebuilding Fund (SPF). Partners in this effort include: Gro Intelligence, Accenture, African Development Bank, InnMind, Georgetown University, the Platform for Agriculture Risk Management (PARM)
The agriculture sector faces increasing risks as natural disasters become more frequent and disruptive due to climate change. Climate change is expected to intensify the following agriculture risks in the South Africa Development Community (SADC):
- Crop failures due to extreme weather events (drought, floods)
- Animal and/or plant pests or diseases
- Food price, agriculture, and trade flow disruptions
To incentivize the development of these risk financing tools, the World Bank’s Agriculture Observatory is launching the following three challenges with the aim to demonstrate alternative ways of collecting or monitoring critical datasets and indices that can be used to ultimately assess in a granular, scalable and dynamic way the various dimensions of impact induced by agricultural stressors.
Challenge 1: Alternative Methods for Measuring Weather Variables
Why: Weather data is essential for the development of risk finance mechanisms and other key tools to strengthen the financial resilience of farmers to climatic shocks. This includes measurements of excess rainfall and rainfall deficit, among other variables.
The Goal: To develop alternative ways to measure weather variables.
Examples: Measurement of rainfall through interruptions between cell phone signals between towers, the weather data captured by WMA approved airport towers.
Challenge 2: Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases
Predicting or Monitoring Animal and/or Plant Pests or Disease Outbreaks
Why: Pathogens are expanding in new areas never affected before, exacting significant economic cost on the livestock sector. Prevention and early warning for rapid response are essential. To better understand how cases effect global economies and food prices around the world, read this insight from Gro Intelligence.
The Goal: For example, provide alternative solutions to predict or monitor high-risk conditions of vector-borne diseases for livestock.
- Models that use alternative data inputs, such as: social media, weather, movements of other vectors driving the spark and spread of these diseases.
- Diseases relevant for SADC including vector-borne diseases with seasonal patterns (e.g. Rift Valley Fever, January Disease, etc.).
Challenge 3: Agriculture Data
Bring your Own Agriculture Data
Why: Objective, transparent, accessible, and accurate data is essential to develop high quality, affordable risk financing instruments (such as insurance) or agriculture information systems. With expansion of novel data collection techniques, non-traditional methods of data collection can leap-frog traditional methods such as yield collection and expand the scope and availability of risk financing instruments for farmers.
The Goal: Present time series of agriculture data (yield, price, production) data for crops relevant to the SADC region in an electronic format. The proposal must explain how the agriculture data was obtained and why it is relevant.
Examples: Cooperatives, input suppliers, agribusinesses, financial institutions, and local NGOs that have collected agriculture data in the SADC region can submit their dataset.
The Application Process
Step 1: Go to our platform link here. Record and send in an explanatory 1 minute YouTube video, fill out the questionnaire and prepare a short application (2 pages max) defining your proposed submission to one of the thematic areas using the submission portal below. Close of Call for Application: April 2, 2020.
Step 2: Proposals will be reviewed by a World Bank Expert Working Group. This will be based on the outlined criteria (see challenge details). Successful applicants will be notified of their invitation to the Shark Tank via email by April 9, 2020.
Step 3: If your proposal is selected, you may receive feedback from the Expert Working Group to maximize the impact of your proposal to be presented at the award ceremony April 27-28, 2020.
Note: For shortlisted applicants, a Request for a Powerpoint Presentation (RFPP) will be issued to get the material before the award ceremony. Public Announcements of the Proposals Funded in this Round will be made in August 2020.
Managing for and during drought
Parts of Victoria have been experiencing dry seasonal conditions.
The Victorian Government supports farmers throughout Victoria to prepare and respond to drought. This support is guided by Victoria’s Drought Preparedness and Response Framework.
Please follow the links below for resources on Victoria’s dry seasons.
A range of sessions are being run across the state to help farmers make good on-farm decisions in tough conditions
Drought is a major challenge for any farm business and the ability to make early decisions is key. The department has tools and resources to help.
Guides and information are available on farm management, and specific information on cattle, sheep, pasture, stock feeds, water supplies and horticulture during drought.
Services and information products to support Victorian farmers to effectively monitor and understand the risks and opportunities of a variable climate, including climate outlooks and drivers in The Very Fast Break.
Early decisions are key to maintaining the welfare of livestock when on-farm feed and water supplies may be running low.
Information regarding the drought concessional loans and other support to help farmers.
Health and social welfare
Drought and tough seasonal conditions take their toll on individuals. Information and links regarding community support services.
Information regarding the support available to businesses impacted by drought.
Following changes to the Victorian Government structure, the content on this site is in transition. There may be references to previous departments, these are being updated. Please call 136 186 to clarify any specific information.
Podur — pests or indicator of improper agricultural technology
urban-gro offers Soleil® Technology, the cannabis industry’s only integrated high-density sensor network built especially to monitor—and act upon—the canopy and environmental conditions within your grow.
While sensors are not new to agriculture or cannabis, what the Soleil sensor technology can do is. Soleil sensors monitor micro-climates at a level not previously supported by the wired and wireless systems available on the market—truly enabling precision agriculture.
The environmental conditions within your cultivation facility can be a good indicator of the overall health of your crop and proper functioning of systems. For instance, if it’s too hot in one area of the room it might mean that an air handler has gone down and could create conditions conducive to pests.
For growers operating commercial cultivations, it can be difficult to consistently monitor the micro-climates throughout the facility. Just because things look good in the northwest corner of the room, doesn’t mean that the temperature/ humidity/ airflow is the same in the southeast corner. What’s more, as a facility scales, it becomes increasingly difficult to manually monitor conditions using fragmented systems.
urban-gro’s Soleil Technology solution includes Sense and a Soleil 360 Platform.
Soleil Sense solutions provide both climate and substrate sensors in a High-Density Internet-of-Things (HD-IoT) architecture to provide real-time data on the microclimates within your cultivation facility.
Soleil 360 Platform
The Soleil 360 Platform is a cloud-based user interface which enables cultivators to view data and take action from anywhere in the world. The platform provides real-time, actionable data and reports.
Digital Technologies in Agriculture: adoption, value added and overview
The adoption of digital technologies in agriculture has been increasing at a rapid pace. In fact, the adoption of digital technologies in every industry has been increasing. The reason why this is such a prevalent trend is that digital technologies bring tremendous value for businesses and individuals. In the agricultural industry, there are many digital technologies that fall under the category of “precision agriculture”. Precision agriculture technologies are changing the way that farmers manage their crops and is being adopted at a growing rate.
Precision Agriculture Technology Adoption
Precision agriculture is a data driven methodology for managing and optimizing the production of crops. In recent years, agricultural producers have been adopting precision agriculture technologies for a handful of reasons. A recent study that was conducted at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which is focused on precision agriculture technology adoption, reflects this trend.
In this study, a survey was given to agricultural producers at various Nebraska Extension events throughout the year of 2015. Therefore, the survey participants are likely to be Nebraska based farmers. There was a total of 126 responses of farmers whose farms were an average of 1,247 acres of row crops out of a total average operation of 1,507 acres. The figure below shows the differents types of precision farming technologies and the rate at which they are adopted.
From this figure we can see that:
- The highest adoption was soil sampling (98%) and computer w/ internet (94%). Yes, you need computer with internet to use latest digital technologies in agriculture.
- Yield monitors and maps, and GPS guidance systems had more than 80% adoption rates.
- Variable rate technology was also very common at a 68% adoption rate.
- Satellite and aerial imagery are on the way to be widely adopted by farmers.
Overall, the adoption of precision agriculture technology is fairly high. Some of these technologies, like internet or tablets, are not necessarily used solely in precision agriculture, but they are the foundational technologies that allow for further adoption.
Another report, which was published by Goldman Sachs, highlights the significant increase in expected yields based on the technological improvements being introduced by precision agriculture. Their report estimates that these new technologies with allow for 70% higher yields on the existing agricultural land. This translates into a total addressable market of $240 billion by 2050. The below figure shows how different technologies will influence the global crop value in the US.
From this report, it is clear that these technologies will have a significant impact on the agricultural industry. The technology solutions that are offered and will be offered in the future increase the value of land by making it possible to produce significantly more crops per acre.
The above figure from the Roland Berger report reflects the estimated market for precision farming technologies. We can see that the US and European markets are the most attractive. Even though the estimation supports this statement, the developing world will also see some major growth in precision agriculture because of the current lower cost. This figure is another key indicator that the adoption of these solutions will only increase due to the value that they are bringing to farmers.
Potential Benefits And Value Added
Now that we can see that this technology is highly adopted and will continue to be adopted by farmers, we can explore some of the benefits that come with precision agriculture technology. The main value that precision agriculture technology brings includes:
- Efficiency in use of resources like chemicals, fertilizers, water, fuel, etc.
- Improving quantity and quality of produce
- Higher yield in same amount of land
- Reducing environmental footprint
- Risks mitigation
These benefits add a tremendous amount of value to the production process, due to the increased yields that are a direct result of the integration of this technology. The added value can be determined by analyzing the estimated increase in yield, and in the same Goldman Sachs’ report, they calculated the added value in dollars based on each of the main forms of precision agriculture technology. The results are below.
- Precision Fertilizer — $65 billion TAM (total addressable market) with $200 billion in added value based on an 18% yield increase.
- Precision Planting — $45 billion TAM with $145 billion in added value based on a 13% yield increase.
- Compaction Reduction via Smaller Tractors — $45 billion TAM with $145 billion in added value based on a 13% yield increase.
- Precision Irrigation — $35 billion TAM with $115 billion in added value based on a 10% yield increase.
- Field Monitoring, Data Management, etc. — $35 billion TAM with potential $125 billion in added value.
- Precision Spraying — $15 billion TAM with $50 billion in added value based on a 4% yield increase.
Main Digital Technologies In Precision Farming
We briefly covered some of the different forms of technologies that are used in precision farming, but let’s look at the main technologies in detail.
- Farm Management Software Platforms — Farm management software platforms are just what they sound like — platforms that help farmers manage their crop production. These platforms (i.e. Granular) integrate with the different hardware devices that are used in precision agriculture. The data from these devices are aggregated onto the central platform where they can be processed and analyzed to help farmers make better decisions on how to manage their operations.
- Data Platforms — Outside of farm management solutions, there are data platforms like Field View from Climate Corporation and Farmers Business Network, whose focus is more on data aggregation so that they can provide data to farmers as a resource. They also want to give farmers a central location where a multitude of information sources come together to provide an overall picture of the industry.
Variable Rate Applications (VRA)
Variable rate application in precision agriculture focuses on the automated application of materials like herbicides, chemicals, and seeds to a landscape. These materials are applied in an automated fashion, which is based on data that is collected by sensors, maps, and GPS. This process involves different forms of precision agriculture technologies like multispectral and hyperspectral cameras, satellite imagery, and application machinery on tractors. VRA is one of the main features of precision agriculture, that allows to optimize use of chemicals, fertilizers and other resources.
Automation In Agro Machinery
- Farm Robots — Robots are used in many industries to automate different tasks. In farming, robots are used for a handful of reasons, but one big use is the automation of weed management. Blue River Technology and Ecorobotix are two companies that have developed robots that use cameras to identify weeds in real time and will make decisions on how they should deal with them.
- Guidance Systems Based on GPS — Just as it sounds, GPS technology is used to guide automated machinery and vehicles in things like auto steering, high navigation and positioning, and more.
- Telematics — This involves machine-to-machine communication between the hardware and sensors that are involved in automation. For example, when a camera identifies a weed, it needs to communicate this information to another piece of machinery that can pluck the weed out of the ground or spray it with some herbicide. Telematics is crucial in automation.
- Precision Planting — Precision planting is an automated approach to optimizing the planting of seeds. It allows for better seed spacing, better depth control, and better root systems. There are many pieces of information that are used to make the proper analysis in identifying the optimal conditions for planting, and this is all easily collectable with the various forms of precision agriculture technology on the market.
The Future Of Farming
The future of farming is very bright. There are more and more precision agriculture technologies coming out every month. All of these solutions offer substantial value for farmers in their effort to optimize production, better manage their operations, and both save money and make money off bigger yields.
These technologies are being adopted by farmers at an accelerating pace. The Roland Berger and Goldman Sachs reports show how both the market size and the adoption are at all time highs, showing no signs of slowing down. From field monitoring technologies to variable rate application, the available precision agriculture technologies offer an end-to-end solution for today’s farmers.
Pennsylvania Mushroom Integrated Pest Management Handbook
Intended for growers, as well as researchers, as both an educational tool and a reference manual, this full-color publication addresses the most important pest organisms with the potential to reduce mushroom yield and quality. It is divided into two parts that cover the theory of integrated pest management (IPM) and the practical aspects of IPM in mushroom growing. The section on IPM in mushroom growing describes how unique features of mushroom crops can be used effectively in IPM, and how the theory of IPM can be applied effectively.
Mushroom growers and researchers
IPM and its historical perspective; the concepts of pest management and types of control; the importance of understanding pest life cycles and biology; how unique features of mushroom crops can be used effectively in IPM, and how the theory of IPM can be applied effectively; specific control techniques (exclusion; cultural control; biological control; chemical control); pesticide safety; and pest species biology and control (arthropod pests, fungal pathogens, weed and indicator molds, bacterial diseases, nematodes, and virus disease)
You might think that all methods of farming are good for the environment. In fact, that’s not the case — not all methods of farming are sustainable. Sustainable agriculture refers to farming practices that understand and are conscious of the effects farming has on an ecosystem. After all, organisms are directly impacted by what happens to their environment. And vice versa.
In order for agriculture to be sustainable, it must have the goal of sustaining communities, farmers, and resources. To achieve this goal, sustainable agriculture usually uses methods that minimize ecological impact and are also profitable—tenets known as ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially supportive.
The first rule of sustainable agriculture is that in order to be sustainable, it also has to be profitable. Secondly, sustainable agriculture must not sacrifice the quality of life for farmers, the families of farmers, and farm communities as a whole. And thirdly, sustainable agriculture must take into consideration the sustainability of each of its practices, making sure to preserve the resources used. Because without the resources, we won’t have the practices.
When we farm, we are changing the soil composition. And not for the better. Believe it or not, farming actually decreases the quality of the soil. Growing and harvesting crops inherently removes some of the nutrients which naturally occur in the soil. This can lead to nutrient depletion in the soil, which can cause a lot of agricultural issues.
Nutrient depletion can cause soil to become unfit for farming. It might cause the soil to be either completely unusable or farmers to see a significant reduction in yields.
Another issue that can occur in soil — à la agriculture that is not sustainable — is erosion. What’s worse, if erosion continues to happen at the current rate it is now, experts theorize crop yields will be cut in half within the next 30 to 50 years. Erosion occurs from the improper management of soil, making sustainable agriculture all the more important. What’s worse, there’s also a connection between increased erosion and increased mudslides. More erosion means that when it rains, the soil can absorb less water. That makes for more runoff, which picks up speed as more runoff is added to the mix. As it picks up speed, it becomes a mudslide, an avoidable natural disaster that can devastate local areas and even injure people and animals.
Remember how farming strips the soil of its nutrients? As soil is stripped it can sequester the carbon from the atmosphere, taking it in and storing it elsewhere. But the soil needs carbon to thrive. Farming can have more negative impacts, too — these can include impaired soil structure, reduced growth in crops, and an ecosystem that no longer functions properly. When soil is not treated properly during farming techniques, it can also advance the effects of climate change. As crop yields decrease, farmers turn to fertilizers that then run off into bodies of water, causing harm to our water sources. When fertilizer enters our water, it pollutes them and causes harmful algae blooms (HABs).
HABs produce potent neurotoxins that transfer through the food web, killing each animal and plant that feeds on the next. They cause disease in fish, humans, and other marine organisms and can even lead to anoxia, aka oxygen depletion. This resulting phenomenon can become so bad, portions of the ocean become inhabitable for any organisms at all.
Farmers also turn to pesticides like glyphosate to try and increase crop yields, but exposure to this herbicide has been linked to illnesses such as cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
So, what can sustainable agriculture do to make sure that we take care of our soil? No-till farming is crucial to ensuring soil is taken care of properly. Tilling is the agricultural preparation of soil by mechanical means. This could include any type of human-powered machine like a shovel, hoe, or rake, or any animal-powered or mechanized work that digs, stirs, or overturns the soil, prepping it for agriculture. Tilling is a big problem; it causes erosion to happen more quickly. No-till farming is one of the key components of using sustainable agriculture to maintain our soil.
Tilling is just one bad practice of many. Irrigation that lacks proper drainage is another bad agricultural practice to avoid as it also contributes to long-term damage of the soil, called salinization.
Salinization—also known as soil salinity—refers to the salt content in the soil. When the salt content of soil rises, it can kill off certain crops and plants and also cause erosion.
Water is another key factor in sustainable agriculture because water is so important to growth. Without adequate rainfall or irrigation, sustainable agriculture would not be successful. Eating out of season and shipping produce further away also exacerbates the issue; when we don’t eat seasonally (or locally for that matter), it takes water from one farm and ships the water or crop to a different region. More resources are needed (including water) to grow strawberries in winter when technically, they are not supposed to be growing in winter because it’s not their season.
Irrigation can have many problems if it is not done sustainably. One such negative impact of improper irrigation is the aforementioned salinization, in which the salt content increases. Problems also arise when more water is taken from a source than what is naturally replenishable.
When irrigation is unsustainable or more water is taken than can be replenished, that source becomes a non-renewable resource. At the current rate we are drawing water from our underground aquifers, we have rendered an infinite resource essentially finite. Aquifers take thousands of years to recharge and replenish, which means this replenishing won’t happen in our lifetime. It won’t happen in our children’s lifetimes either.
In order to use water more sustainably, we can improve water conservation and methods of storage, provide incentives for species of drought-tolerant crops, use reduced-volume irrigation systems, and manage crops to reduce water loss.
Eating locally and seasonally is another great way to use water more sustainably. By eating food that is locally grown and in season, you are supporting the local economy and are eating food that likely has a higher nutrient count. All in all, local foods are fresher (because they haven’t been shipped around the world, frozen in packaging) and they have less of an environmental impact.
How agriculture treats the land used for farming is a key indicator of whether or not agriculture is sustainable. Sustainable agriculture seeks to consider the impacts of land use, anticipating these impacts, and if possible, avoiding them. Improper farming practices can result in land degradation — the process in which the value of the environment is affected by human-induced processes. Degradation can constitute any disturbance in how the land was prior, making it barren, unusable, or undesirable.
Sustainable agriculture takes into consideration that land is finite. We cannot make more land, so we have to be extremely conscious about how we use it and how our using it affects it. If we want to preserve our land, soil erosion and degradation must be avoided at all costs. As humans continue to build, however, the land continues to be affected. Urban development negatively impacts the land and contributes to loss of biodiversity. Again, it also contributes to soil erosion. This is where urban planning comes into play. Urban planning is a political process that focuses on sustainable ways to use land for the sake of development. It takes into consideration the air, water, and infrastructure touching urban areas, which can include transportation and the physical layout of cities.
It’s also important to note that most viable agricultural land isn’t used for sustainable agriculture at all. It’s used to grow feed crops for animals or to grow biofuel crops, but very little of it actually goes toward human consumption. Vertical farming is a possible alternative to this, as vertical farming relies on hydroponics (which is «placing seeds in a solution of minerals dissolved in water,» according to The Culture-ist). This type of farming is grown in a greenhouse and is stacked so that plants can grow up rather than out.
Plants need certain nutrients present in their soil in order to grow properly and prosper. The number one nutrient that plans require is nitrogen; phosphate is next in line as it helps with photosynthesis, energy transfer, respiration, and so much more. Phosphate is crucial to improving the quality of soil and increasing crop yields, which is why it’s necessary for sustainable agriculture.
Phosphate is also key in combating diseases in plants and crops, aiding the growth of roots, and helping seeds form properly.
Since we need phosphate, we need a solution to the depletion of it. Composting is one way we can do that; if we compost human and animal waste, it creates PSMs or phosphate-solubilizing microorganisms, which help phosphate last longer and do its job better. These PSMs get added to the soil and help plants grow, resulting in increased growth and crop yields. Other solutions that add phosphate back in include phosphate-fixing plants like comfrey and dock, or adding bones to the soil. Guano — the excrement of birds and bats — is also great for replenishing phosphate.
It would be impossible to consider the sustainability of agriculture without taking energy into consideration. Energy is used in everything, from storage to transportation to food processing. As fossil fuel resources become fewer and fewer, the higher energy prices increase and food prices increase, too.
Energy efficiency directly affects food insecurity, which is the «limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways,» according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Basically, energy inefficiency translates to higher food prices, especially for fruits and vegetables. The more energy it takes to grow produce, the higher the price point. Food insecurity is a big problem as it’s linked to poor physical and mental health and also an increase in chronic diseases. Without access to proper nutrition, health issues are inevitable.
So, what can we do about the issue of energy when it comes to sustainable agriculture? Solar-powered energy is generally a good tactic and can be used for nearly anything, even water irrigation. Solar-powered energy works so well for sustainable agriculture because it is considered renewable, meaning we cannot take too much solar energy. Horse-drawn tractor equipment is possibly a more sustainable alternative to using machinery for farming as it lessens the carbon footprint of the farming process.
Energy is arguably one of the most important resources for the progress of sustainable agriculture, which is why sustainable energy practices matter so much. Combined with water issues, energy is one of the most common obstacles that impedes sustainable agriculture.
By fixing these issues with more sustainable alternatives, sustainable agriculture can help set our environment — and our farming processes — back on the right track. It’s most important to never take more than what can automatically replenish itself and to maintain conscious practices that take environmental impact into consideration.
Green Matters consulted Alyssa Mikesh, a fellow at Stony Brook University’s ecotoxicology lab for this piece.
Photo Source: iStock
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If you’ve ever spent any time gardening, you know there is no devastation like the feeling of your plants dying due to pests like bugs or weeds.
Does Organic Mean All-Natural? Not Exactly — Here’s the Difference Between the Labels
You’ll be happy to know that you are not the only person wondering: Does “organic” mean the same thing as “all-natural”?
Which Plants Attract Butterflies? Support Pollinators With a Butterfly Garden on Your Lawn
Make butterflies feel at home in your very own backyard.
The World Can’t Survive Without the Amazon: Here’s Why
The fires in the Amazon aren’t just affecting those who live there — it’s also affecting you.
How to Protect Your Vegetable Garden From Animals
Gardening is a fun and rewarding hobby — not to mention, sustainable and delicious. But gardening can also be fickle, especially if the neighborhood squirrels, deer, and birds have realized how tasty your hobby is.
Why Is Locally Grown Food Better for the Environment?
Eating locally is a crucial tenet of sustainable agriculture — which, in turn, helps all living things flourish.
How to Sustainably Shop at the Farmers Market: 7 of Our Best Tips
The farmers market can even help you save money.