25 Year Study Reveals Eco-Farming To Be Economically Feasible And Sustainable
Ecological farming is being adopted by a number of US farms as an environmentally safe option to conventional farming practices. Farming without excessive use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers is now seen as an economically viable option to a number of farmers according to a research conducted by the Kellogg Biological Station in southwest Michigan. According to this report, Midwest farmers with large farms are ready to deviate from their standard farming practices in exchange for payments,said a press release Wednesday. This type of organic farming, which according to a previous study has been supported by citizens in the form of monetary funds, will lead to improved water quality in lakes, biological diversity, pest suppression, and soil fertilit. An article on this will be published in the May issue of BioScience.
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The research was conducted over a span of 25 years by G. Philip Robertson and six others associated with the Kellogg Biological Station, which is part of the Long Term Ecological Research Network. The researchers studied the harvest and environmental benefits of growing crops such as corn, soybean, and winter wheat using three techniques. One was to use minimum or no fertilizer at all. The second was to fertilize fields with "cover crops" such as legumes in winter, which also improves the sustainability of agro ecosystems. The third was to practise the "no-till" technique where crops are grown without disturbing the land though tillage.
A chemical analyses of the water sources close to these farming areas revealed a 50 percent reduction in the amount of nitrogen that escaped into groundwater and rivers, with crop yields close to those of standard management. Excessive nitrogen pollution due to farming and other human related activities results in "dead zones" in inland waterways and coastal regions, where the amount of oxygen depletes to such levels that it can no longer support marine life.
The no-till and reduced chemical fertilizer factors also contributed to reducing the effect of greenhouse warming by absorbing greenhouse gases. The standard management practices result in the emission of large amounts of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. The zero-chemical regime mitigated greenhouse warming enough to compensate for the emissions produced under standard management. All three techniques also contributed to more fertile soil than is achieved in conventional farming.
These ecological farming techniques studied by Robertson and his colleagues are more complex than the standard practices, but according to the researchers, farmers can be incentivised to adopt these procedures, with payments-- especially farmers with large farms.
And members of the public are also willing to do their bit. A 2009 survey in Michigan found that non-farming members were willing to pay higher taxes so that land managers could participate in stewardship programs to benefit lakes; a smaller number were willing to pay for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Robertson and his team, increasing population is only going to intensify farming operations across the globe, which in turn will further intensify the climate change woes of the Earth. "Now is the time to guide this intensification in a way that enhances the delivery of ecosystems services that are not currently marketed," they conclude.
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