1. Introduction

Sustainable farming rests on the principle that we must meet the need of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Therefore stewardship is of prime importance.

Sustainability has become a buzz-word being thrown around in every conversation concerning agriculture. It is important to understand what is meant with the term sustainability and how to achieve it in a farming system.


2. Sustainability and Biological Farming

It is important to understand that farming is a system and not a set of loose standing actions. Sustainable farming is also called Biological Farming. It combines the best of conventional, chemical, and biological into a practical but holistic system to achieve sustainability and profitability.

There are different aspects that make the farming system sustainable. They are the following:

  • Economic sustainability. Farming is a business and the bottom line must be sustainable as well.
  • Pragmatism. The practices and inputs must be able to work in a large commercial farming operation.
  • Science Based. The different sciences namely chemistry, physics, biology microbiology must be incorporated into a workable farming system.
  • Health and environment. This is a vital part of a healthy farming system.
  • Soil fertility. The focus shifts to restoring and maintaining healthy soils rather then just feeding the plant.


3. Restoring and Maintaining Soil Fertility

Soil fertility is the foundation of any sustainable farming operation. There are a number of key factors that need to be considered to restore and maintain soil fertility.

  • Build up organic matter and carbon in the soil. The main source of all plant and microbial life in the soil
  • Restoring microbial biodiversity. Key to plant’s immune system, nutrient cycling and all metabolic reactions in the soil
  • Balance of mineral nutrients in the soil. We need to feed the plant all the nutrients that it needs, not only N, P and K.
  • Judicious use of chemical fertilisers and chemicals. To protect soil micro-biology, we need to move away from harsh fertilisers and chemicals.
  • Water management. This includes all the aspects of surface water run-off, sub-soil drainage, sound irrigation management and scheduling. All successful nutrition programmes are dependent on good water management.


Article written by F. Botha (B.Sc Hon Soil Science)
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