The goal of sustainable agriculture is two-fold: 1) preserve the natural systems and resources that farming relies on, and 2) produce a high yield that will accommodate a constantly growing human population.
It may sound counter-intuitive, especially when we see so many crop yields modified by pesticides and other chemicals, but sustainable agriculture practices have actually been proven to provide high crop yields because of their environmentally-conscious ways of farming. (Science for Environment Policy)
How does sustainable agriculture get a large yield?
There are many farming practices used in sustainable agriculture. Some of them are:
- Crop Rotation: Instead of growing the same crop time after time on the same soil, depleting the soil of certain nutrients and causing a need for pesticide intervention, crop rotation changes up which crops are planted on a given block of soil. This helps replenish nutrients in the soil as well as deter pests who tend to prefer one specific crop, and are unlikely to stick around if their food supply is inconsistent.
- Cover Crops: Cover crops keep the soil covered. This method of crop care prevents soil erosion, suppresses weeds, and enhances overall soil quality.
- Intercropping: Intercropping is a method of planting two or more crops of differing characteristics close together. Not only does it encourage plant diversity which reduces pests, intercropping plants can be specially paired to be symbiotic with one another. One plant may provide shade the other desperately needs, and the other plant may reciprocate with nitrogen fixation.
There are numerous other practices to reaching higher yields in sustainable agriculture, many of which we have covered in previous blogs, such as Integrated Pest Management.