Sustainable Agriculture : A way of Giving Back to Earth : Daily Current Affairs

Relevance: GS-3: Agriculture, Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation.

Key Phrases: Sustainable Agriculture, Organic, Inorganic farming, Crop Rotation, Permaculture, Soil enrichment, Bio intensive Integrated Pest Management, Polyculture farming, Agroforestry, Biodynamic Farming, Stable food supply, Soil health, Promotes diversity,

Why in News?

  • Sustainable Agriculture helps to solve the long-term conflict on effectiveness of organic, inorganic farming.


  • Every life on this planet depends on others for survival. For instance, the worm depends on the soil, and the soil quality relies on worms.
  • Similarly, we rely on the earth, and the earth currently depends on our actions that have the potential to ensure its well-being.
  • We must not forget that we all are tenants on this planet, which belongs to future generations as well.
  • It is our responsibility to be mindful of our actions that affect our planet and to do our part to protect it for future generations. This is possible through adopting sustainable farming practices, which have both a long term and a short impact on the human race.

Sustainable agriculture

  • Sustainable agriculture is farming in sustainable ways meeting society's present food and textile needs, without compromising the ability for current or future generations to meet their needs. It can be based on an understanding of ecosystem services.
  • The basic goals of sustainable agriculture are:
    • Environmental health.
    • Economic profitability.
    • Social and economic equity.


Organic Farming

  • It is the practice of farming or raising of crops and other livestock without using any inorganic chemical fertilizers, pesticides or any other genetically modified organisms.
  • The British botanist Sir Albert Howard is often referred to as the father of modern organic agriculture.
  • With organic farming, the productivity of the farming fields is enhanced along with economic growth, thus promising a sustainable environment.
  • It has many benefits over other practices. They are eco-friendly and help to reduce the soil infertility and soil erosion issues. It enhances the organic productivity which promotes a healthy lifestyle.
  • Some limitations of organic farming:
    • Organic food is more expensive because farmers do not get as much out of their land as conventional farmers do.
    • Production costs are higher because farmers need more workers.
    • The crops are easily susceptible to illness that may slow down production.
    • Marketing and distribution is not efficient because organic food is produced in smaller amounts.

Methods of Sustainable Agriculture:

  • Crop Rotation:
    • Crop rotation is one of the most powerful techniques of sustainable agriculture. Its purpose is to avoid the consequences that come with planting the same crops in the same soil for years in a row.
    • It helps tackle pest problems, as many pests prefer specific crops. Rotation breaks the reproduction cycles of pests.
    • During rotation, farmers can plant certain crops, which replenish plant nutrients. These crops reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Permaculture:
    • An agricultural system or method that seeks to integrate human activity with natural surroundings so as to create highly efficient self-sustaining ecosystems.
    • Permaculture is a food production system with intention, design, and smart farming to reduce waste of resources and create increased production efficiency.
    • Permaculture design techniques include
      • growing grain without tillage,
      • herb and plant spirals,
      • hugelkultur garden beds,
      • keyhole and mandala gardens,
      • sheet mulching,
      • each plant serving multiple purposes, and
      • creating swales on contour to hold water high on the landscape.
  • Cover Crops: By planting cover crops, such as clover or oats, the farmer can achieve his goals of preventing soil erosion, suppressing the growth of weeds, and enhancing the quality of the soil. The use of cover crops also reduces the need for chemicals such as fertilizers.
  • Soil Enrichment: Soil is a central component of agricultural ecosystems. Healthy soil is full of life, which can often be killed by the overuse of pesticides. Good soils can increase yields as well as help create more robust crops.
  • Natural Pest Predators: In order to maintain effective control over pests, it is important to view the farm as an ecosystem as opposed to a factory. For example, many birds and other
  • Bio intensive Integrated Pest Management: Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an approach, which essentially relies on biological as opposed to chemical methods. IMP also emphasizes the importance of crop rotation to combat pest management.
  • Polyculture Farming:
    • This technique is similar to crop rotation that tries to mimic natural principles to achieve the best yields.
    • It involves growing multiple crop species in one area.
    • These species often complement each other and helps produce a greater diversity of products at one plot while fully utilizing available resources.
  • Agroforestry: Agroforestry has become one of the powerful tools of farmers in dry regions with soils susceptible to desertification. It involves the growth of trees and shrubs amongst crops or grazing land, combining both agriculture and forestry practices for long-lasting, productive, and diverse land use when approached sustainably.
  • Biodynamic Farming: Biodynamic farming incorporates ecological and holistic growing practices based on the philosophy of “anthroposophy.” It focuses on the implementation of practices such as composting, application of animal manure from farmed animals, cover cropping or rotating complementary crops for generating the necessary health and soil fertility for food production.

Why Sustainable Agriculture is Important?

  • It solves the conflict over inorganic and organic farming practices. For a long time, there has been debate over the effectiveness of organic or inorganic farming practices. Sustainable farming helps to resolve the long-term conflict. Sustainable agriculture focuses on providing food in the long term. It emphasises a balanced crop nutrition approach that uses both organic and inorganic fertilisers and certain microorganisms to improve nutrient availability and effectiveness.
  • Ensuring stable food supply:
    • According to the United Nations, the world population is expected to grow by 9.7 billion by 2050.
    • And as per the World Bank, food demand will increase by 70 per cent by 2050. Here, sustainable farming plays an essential role in ensuring food for all.
  • Sustainable agriculture helps to improve soil health as it uses green manure, crop residue and fewer chemicals which ultimately increase crop production.
  • Sustainable farming helps keep our mother nature suitable for future generations while meeting the requirement for sufficient food in the present.
  • Works for nature, not against: Unlike modern highly chemical-dependent farming practices, which may degrade the environment and natural resources, sustainable agriculture harmonises with nature. It focuses on biological productivity by relying on the regenerative aspects of the natural environment.
  • Promotes diversity: Sustainable agriculture promotes diverse farming systems that include many crops rather than just a few selected monoculture crops. For example, tall plants that prosper in the sun coexist with shorter plants that love the shade. This helps to produce more food per acre of land. Also, growing multiple types makes the crop more resilient because of more genetic diversity, which means the crop is less likely to succumb to diseases or pests.
  • Supports, empowers growers friends: One critical aspect of sustainable farming is that it is cost-effective for farmers, farm workers, and other people involved in the farming system. Adopting sustainable farming practices ensures everyone makes a liveable wage and works in a safe environment.

Challenges to sustainable farming in India:

  • Feeding a growing population: India is still struggling with food security. According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 190 million of the Indian population remains hungry on a daily basis.
  • Providing a livelihood for farmers: Policies to increase the environmental sustainability of agriculture could impose increased costs on farmers and lead to higher prices for consumers.
  • Affordability: In India maximum farmer are poor or marginal with a landholding less than 1 hectare. So they are unable to afford technology in agriculture like drip irrigation.
  • Other challenges are rural transport system, need for awareness regarding crop treatment, dependence on irregular monsoons, and the receding agricultural land giving way to urbanization.
  • The Indian farmer’s access to modern farming technology is also limited.

Government initiative for sustainable agriculture

  • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY): The scheme aims at promotion of commercial organic production through certified organic farming. According to the scheme, farmers will be encouraged to form groups or clusters and take to organic farming methods over large areas in the country.
  • National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture: It aims at enhancing agriculture productivity especially in rainfed areas focusing on integrated farming, soil health management, and synergizing resource conservation. Schemes under NMSA:
    • Rainfed Area Development
    • Soil Health Management
    • Sub Mission on Agro Forestry
    • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana
    • Soil and Land Use Survey of India
    • National Rainfed Area Authority
    • Mission Organic Value Chain Development in North Eastern Region
    • National Centre of Organic Farming
  • Network Project on Organic Farming of ICAR: It aims at evaluating the relative performance of location-specific, important cropping systems under organic and conventional farming, and assesses agronomic efficiency of different production systems.

Way forward:

  • Sustainable farming practices ensure we make responsible choices that promise everyone a safe and liveable future. It helps better people’s lives, protects our ecosystem, and preserves natural resources for future generations. Above all, sustainable farming is the only ray of hope to save Mother Earth and one of her children — the human race.

Source: The Hindu BL

Mains Question:

Q. What do you understand by Sustainable Agriculture? What are its benefits ?