Every industry, agriculture included, seeks to do more with less. Efficiency means more profitable crops and has become a necessity as farmers seek to serve a skyrocketing global population with limited natural resources.
Agricultural industrialization in the mid-1900s led to increased output but took a harmful toll on precious resources. Today, farmers big and small across the globe are looking for ways to adopt sustainable agriculture practices that allow them to grow more high-quality food using fewer, well-managed resources.
What is sustainable farming?
The experts at the University of California, Davis have developed extensive resources on sustainable farming
. The concept is based on the principle of meeting “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” and is focused on a healthy environment, economic profitability, and social and economic equity.
This attentiveness to both the present and the future wasn’t always valued, however and farmers, farm workers, and the environment paid the price.
In the economic boom that followed World War II, government programs emphasized productivity while technological advancements paved the way for more modern farming practices. Over time, increased mechanization of labor, heightened chemical use, and consolidation of farms did successfully increase agricultural output. However, those same practices had negative consequences that ranged from deteriorated working conditions for farm laborers to groundwater contamination and topsoil degradation.
Today, as farmers look to protect the future of their farms while maintaining current profitability, there is much more interest in sustainable farming practices.
When implementing sustainable farming practices, it can be useful to think of sustainable farming as a process made up of many small steps. A good place to start is with an examination of how your farm uses and preserves critical natural resources, namely air, water, energy, and soil.
Sustainable stewardship of natural resources
- Air: Air pollutants cause harm to people, animals, and plants. On farms, smoke, dust, pesticides, and nitrous oxide emissions can all have a negative impact on air quality. Farmers can protect air by reducing tilling and planting wind breaks or cover crops to reduce the amount of dust in the air.
- Water: Water can be an unpredictable resource, and many regions experience frequent droughts. Sustainable water practices include leaving crop residues in the field between growing seasons to increase how much water the soil can hold, implementing reduced-volume irrigation systems, and planting drought-tolerant crop varietals.
- Energy: Petroleum is a common energy source in the agriculture industry but it is non-renewable and pollutes the environment. As much as possible, farmers are striving to incorporate clean, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.
- Soil: Healthy soil is essential for high yields. Farmers plant cover crops and leave crop residue in the field to decrease erosion and increase the amount of organic matter and nutrients in the soil. Crop rotation is a sustainable way to reduce weeds, pests, and disease susceptibility. And farmers help keep soils balanced with regular assessment of irrigation systems to reduce water runoff, limited tillage, and supplementing as needed.
Whether you’re a family farm or part of a large agricultural corporation, it’s important to measure and manage the health of your soil. Soil with the right balance of nutrients is good for both a farm’s environmental impact and economic bottom line, two major components of sustainable farming.
In many cases, applying micronutrients can increase the level of important nutrients in the topsoil and can help to sustainably increase crop yields. Boron is known to be an important micronutrient for plant health, and recently, applying boron has been shown to have a positive impact on plant growth and yield in periods of both too little and too much rain.
Some boron fertilizers have harmful ingredients, however, and aren’t appropriate for sustainable farming initiatives. Fortunately, there are trusted, sustainable options, including U.S. Borax’s line of boron fertilizers which are 100% natural and certified organic.
U.S. Borax’s Granubor®
is the only 100% soluble, refined boron that contains no impurities, fillers, coatings or added ingredients and is OMRI Listed®
. (OMRI, the Organic Materials Review Institute, is an independent, nonprofit review organization that reviews products including fertilizers, pest controls, and livestock healthcare products.) Its quality and purity make Granubor
a safe and sustainable choice.
Whenever you are switching up your fertilizers, it’s important to conduct trials of new methods and inputs before rolling them out to all of your crops. For example, when switching to a new fertilizer, test it on a small section of your farm or crop first to see how it performs.
Contact your local agronomist or a U.S. Borax distributor for help finding a crop consultant and setting up an on-farm trial.