Better Farming for a Better Future
Ploughing, seeding, spraying pesticides and insecticides until the crop is ready for market, and then repeating the whole process for the next batch – an average farmer lives a monotonous and tiring life. It’s not just the farmer who gets no rest; the farm soil is constantly exploited and restless too. On top of this, Pakistan’s usual farming practices damage the soil further. Tiling and ploughing open the ground to erosion. After the harvest season, the dug-up soil is left exposed, leading to nutrients, carbon, and moisture escaping the earth. These practices have already resulted in large portions of cultivatable land turning into barren desserts. With this rate of soil destruction, scientists fear that we will have severe food security and public health problems within 50 years.
Luckily, there’s a way out of impending doom; it is regenerative agriculture. Many scientists think regenerative farming if used more widely, can prevent future harm and even reverse the damage already done. Regenerative agriculture is rising in popularity in the west and can be employed in Pakistan too. But what is regenerative agriculture?
Regenerative agriculture is a set of farming and grazing practices that focus on flourishing soil health. It aims to restore soil biodiversity and rebuild the carbon content of the soil. Under the canopy of regenerative practices, a handful of approaches are available for the farmers to employ.
Many western farmers follow no-till and crop rotation. The soil is left undisturbed with no-till farming, which prevents erosion and loss of moisture from the ground. It also allows soil biological activity to restore. As microbes play a significant part in nitrogen fixation, no-till leaves the soil with higher nutrient content.
In crop rotation, the same farmland is used to grow various crops during their respective growing seasons. This sequential farming technique allows the soil to rest while being economically active. Since each crop’s nutritional requirement varies, cultivating different crops enables the ground to restore those specific nutrient concentrations in each round.
Farmers also use intercropping as a regeneration practice. In intercropping, more than one crop is grown in the same field. This technique uses large areas more efficiently, and a greater variety of produce is harvested each season. Additionally, like crop rotation, intercropping utilizes different crops with different nutrient requirement characteristics to maintain the soil’s composition.
Cover cropping is another regenerative practice that is similar to intercropping. Here, a non-cash crop is grown along the primary cash crop. The main objective is to improve soil fertility, structure, and composition. It also reduces diseases and pests.
Regenerative grazing is gaining popularity in the environmentally-conscious farming community. In this approach, planned animal grazing is allowed in specified segments of land while letting others rest. As cattle wander about limited land, their hooves loosen up the soil, and their manures fertilize the ground too. The cows are moved from one portion to another before they overgraze the pasture.Through these practices, the soil recovers and allows healthier plants to grow. It leads to more food production and more carbon content from the air to be captured and stored back into the earth. Following these practices, the farmers can help reduce the from the environment too. If Pakistan widely uses these farming practices, it can optimize land usage and prevent land exploitation. The farmers can grow more crops without exhausting their small farms. Although the future is uncertain due to climatic effects, we can still set a track for a better and more secure future by utilizing these innovative farming techniques.