Sustainable alternatives to conventional farming are in higher demand than ever as being “environmentally friendly” gains popularity.
Traditional field farming has a reputation for damaging natural ecosystems.
Concerns about the impact of harmful chemicals, soil erosion and heavy water consumption on the environment motivate the development of sustainable alternatives.
Sustainable, or environmentally friendly, farming refers to conservative water use, maintaining soil health, and minimizing air and water pollution.
In this article, we’ll compare the environmental aspects of three types of sustainable farming: organic, permaculture and hydroponics.
Organic farming refers to cultivating crops without the use of harmful chemicals, such as synthetic pesticides.
These toxic chemicals make their way into our air, ground and water when they are sprayed, run off with field water and aren’t discarded properly.
Organic farming is incredibly popular because it doesn’t use too many different farming approaches than conventional farming.
However, this is also a downside as this means it still employs damaging farming techniques like tilling.
Tilling is common practice for traditional and organic farms alike.
It’s when soil is prepared for agriculture by digging, stirring and overturning it, like when using a hoe or rake.
But it damages the soil by destroying its natural structure, which makes soil erosion and surface runoff occur faster.
Too much tillage even causes the soil to lose nutrients and organic matter.
In sum, while organic farming may limit the earth’s exposure to harmful chemicals, it still subjects the land to other harmful practices.
Permaculture focuses on designing farms to mimic natural ecosystems.
It’s a set of principles used to minimize human intervention in food cultivation while maximizing harvests.
Part of permaculture means using only renewable energy and wasting nothing.
Because permaculture aims to maximize the natural features of the earth, such as collecting and using rainwater, it’s a popular option for those searching for sustainable farming solutions.
Like organic farming, it doesn’t use harmful chemicals.
Permaculture also allows insects to naturally pollinate plants, while using companion planting to protect crops from infestations.
However, there isn’t much credible research to suggest it’s a viable option for commercial farming.
And critics question the effectiveness of permaculture when it comes to growing substantial food crops.
As a result, permaculture is better in theory than on paper, offering small solutions to a big problem.
Hydroponic farming cultivates plants without the use of soil.
It does this by dissolving nutrients in water and delivering that water to the plants.
Hydroponics is already frequently used in large-scale commercial farms, especially for growing lettuce and tomatoes.
It’s thought to be one of the most sustainable farming systems due to its emphasis on water conservation, lack of harmful chemicals and lack of soil damage.
Even though hydroponic farms rely on water to deliver nutrients to plants, they actually use up to 90% less water than conventional farms.
This is because hydroponic systems are able to collect water for reuse, whereas traditional farms cannot.
Additionally, hydroponic farms are typically indoors, so pests are much less of an issue, making it easier to control pest invasions without the use of pesticides.
Plus, because it doesn’t use soil, there’s no risk of soil damage from unsafe practices like tilling.
However, critics argue that because indoor hydroponic farms tend to use a lot more energy to operate than traditional farms, they aren’t completely environmentally friendly.
But it’s important to note that studies show this issue is easily solved by using renewable energy sources, like solar panels.
Obviously, hydroponics is the strongest competitor when it comes to environmentally friendly farming.
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can start farming sustainably, visit our website or call 602-753-3469.