13 Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture Explained in Full Detail
The benefits of sustainable agriculture are; pollution mitigation, resource conservation, energy production and conservation, biodiversity, erosion control, food security, social equity, socioeconomic equality, improved living standards, public health and safety, ethical practices, low cost, raw materials, economic growth and innovation.
These benefits can be broadly classified into environmental, social and economic, according to the three pillars of sustainability and sustainable development.
They are each discussed extensively as follows;
– Environmental Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
– Social Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
– Economic Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
-Importance of Sustainable Agriculture
– Environmental Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
1). Pollution Mitigation
Control and mitigation of environmental degradation is one of the most notable benefits of sustainable agriculture.
There are various ways by which pollution and degradation of the environment are controlled in sustainable farming. However, the basic mechanism by which this occurs is through conservation, because sustainable farming is itself a conservative concept.
For example, waste is effectively managed in sustainable agriculture, thereby reducing environmental exposure and risk. Rather than become an environmental problem, this waste is utilized for any of various purposes including waste-to-energy processes like anaerobic digestion that require organic matter or biomass.
Agricultural waste is also used as a soil amendment through composting , thereby improving soil health and boosting fertility.
Through the implementation of various practices of sustainable agriculture like no-till farming and integrated crop-livestock management (ICLM), emission of greenhouse gases and gaseous pollutants can be reduced, leading to improved air quality.
Biological control, organic farming and other environment-friendly approaches in sustainable agriculture, may reduce the use of chemical fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides . This in turn reduces the risk of soil, water and air pollution associated with these products.
2). Resource Conservation as one of the Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
In sustainable agriculture, efforts are continuously made to conserve natural resources, boost resource-efficiency and reduce wastage .
There are various ways by which sustainable agriculture conserves resources. One of these is through land-efficient practices and elements of sustainable farming like polyculture, urban farming and hydroponics.
These practices maximize the potential of agricultural land, thereby conserving this important natural resource.
Soil conservation is achieved through practices like crop rotation which reduce erosion and leaching, and help to improve the fertility of soil .
Sustainable agriculture also conserves financial resources by reducing the level of dependence on chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides/herbicides for pest and weed control.
Water conservation is yet another practice in sustainable agriculture . The construction of water dams which supply irrigation water for agricultural projects, is one of several measures by which water resources can be conserved for agricultural purposes.
Techniques like drip irrigation may reduce the actual volume of water that is consumed in agriculture, while increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of irrigation . Dams can also generate hydroelectricity using conserved flood water. The electricity is a good alternative to fossil fuel power and can be used for operating agricultural equipment.
3). Energy Production and Conservation as Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
Energy conservation and energy efficiency are two major benefits of sustainable agriculture.
Conservation of energy may occur in any of various ways. One of these is through the adoption of organic methods that require less use of artificially-produced chemicals or electricity from fossil fuels.
Energy-efficient methods in sustainable agriculture are also effective to conserve energy. This is because energy efficiency makes it possible to do more work with less energy.
The dependence on fossil fuels for energy can be reduced in sustainable agriculture by producing renewable energy in the form of biofuel, from agricultural residue and waste. Other renewable technologies like wind turbines and solar panels can be installed on agricultural lands.
4). Increase in Biodiversity
Sustainable agriculture encourages healthy ecologic conditions and biodiversity .
Biodiversity is an indicator of high levels of productivity in an agricultural ecosystem. It may be observed in soil organisms, crop species, livestock species, and woody perennial species.
When an optimal approach to sustainable agriculture is utilized, the materials and methods used will align with geochemical cycles and other natural conditions of the environment. Combined with improved soil fertility, water and air quality, this allows a broad range of organic species to survive and thrive.
Sustainable practices like crop rotation also enable farmers to introduce multiple crops into their farms over a period of time. Agricultural biodiversity is important to increase the availability of food.
5). Erosion Control as one of the Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
Soil erosion is a major concern in the field of agriculture, and is responsible for problems like soil loss, leaching of nutrients, and depletion of biodiversity .
Controlling erosion is a major aim, as well as a benefit of sustainable agriculture. Various sustainable farming practices like cover cropping no-till farming, terracing, and crop rotation are designed to protect the soil and improve soil structure and mechanical resilience.
Erosion control leads to soil conservation, improved agricultural yield, and diversification. It also reduces the risk of natural hazards like landslides.
Aside erosion by wind or rainfall, artificially-induced erosion by flood irrigation is also prevented by using sustainable irrigation methods.
– Social Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
6). Food Security as one of the Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
Eradicating world hunger and improving food security are among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals .
Given the current prevalence of food insecurity in the world, improving food production is an important achievement of sustainable farming.
The most obvious way by which food security is improved is by conservation. This includes conservation of soil, water, and nutrients. When these resources are conserved, the biological productivity of the ecosystem increases, enabling crops and livestock to be produced in more volume, quality and diversity.
Food security is improved in sustainable farming also by minimizing food wastage, and using agricultural residue as organic fertilizer through composting.
Lastly, sustainable agriculture boosts food security through the introduction, development and implementation of innovative methods and equipment.
These include practices like urban farming, whereby urban lands are used for agricultural purposes through environmental remediation and enhancement. Micronutrient application is another example of an innovative approach that boosts food security .
Innovative farming technologies are also useful for improving food security, by optimizing the use of labor, time and natural resources.
7). Social Equity, Socioeconomic Equality and Improved Living Standards
Social equity is one of the benefits of sustainable agriculture, when all elements of sustainability are taken into account and adhered to.
The idea behind social equity in sustainable agriculture is to provide sufficient resources to meet the existing needs for all parties involved in the agricultural sector.
This is achievable through sustainable agriculture because it is a conservative approach that ensures that resources are effectively distributed and utilized.
Socioeconomic equality through sustainable agriculture can be achieved in form of access to food and other agricultural products at low cost.
Equality can also be achieved through sustainable agriculture in the area of environmental degradation and its control. Because sustainable agriculture includes ethical practices like environmental justice , it ensures that no group is victimized by the environmental consequences of poor farming methods.
When social equity and socioeconomic equality are achieved or improved, the standard of living naturally improves as well. This may affect areas such as cost of food and raw materials, energy and power supply, and environmental quality.
8). Public Health and Safety Improvement
The two main ways by which sustainable agriculture affects public health are through its impact on food supply, and on the environment.
When agriculture is sustainable, the supply of quality and diverse food products becomes possible. This leads to improved nutrition and health for the public.
Through sustainable agriculture, exposure of humans to hazardous environmental pollutants and conditions is reduced.
For example, human exposure to toxic chemicals reduces through sustainable agriculture, since less of such chemicals is used. Agricultural waste is also kept away from the environment by converting this waste to organic fertilizer or fuel.
9). Promotion of Ethical Practices
The practice of ethics in sustainable agriculture is one of its advantages.
Ethical practices in sustainable agriculture are generally aimed at creating a healthy balance between productivity and wellbeing.
This means that in order for agriculture to be ethical, crop cultivation and animal rearing must both be conducted in ways that do not pose a threat to the wellbeing of the environment or ecosystem, the crops and livestock, and the human population.
The wellbeing of agricultural livestock is ensured by reducing the exposure of these animals to unfavorable materials, methods and rearing conditions .
For crop and environmental wellbeing, conservative methods can be used to reduce degradation through erosion, leaching, or chemical pollution.
Genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) are generally prohibited in sustainable agriculture . This ensures that organic methods are used in place of artificial methods which are potentially harmful to human health.
– Economic Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
10). Cost Reduction as one of the Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
Sustainable agriculture reduces cost of food production and marketing in various ways.
One of these is through conservative farming practices. These practices, such as no-till and crop rotation, are capable of optimizing productivity while reducing the cost of labor, materials and equipment.
Conserving energy, water and soil also reduces production cost for these commodities.
By improving and preserving the quality of the environment, sustainable agriculture saves expenses which would otherwise be made on environmental remediation and fertilizer application.
The innovative methods and tools that are introduced through sustainable farming also help to reduce cost at the levels of production, processing, and distribution, while increasing efficiency and effectiveness.
11). Raw Material Production for Industries
By boosting productivity, sustainable farming increases the supply of raw materials like textile, soya, and palm oil that are used in the manufacture of various important products.
12). Agro Economic Growth
Economic growth is a consequence of the combined effect of some of the benefits of sustainable agriculture like improved productivity, effective waste management and resource conservation.
Agro economic growth is indicated by low production cost, sufficient supply and quality output.
As part of efforts to support sustainable development in the agricultural sector, favorable policies and tax systems can be implemented. Innovative methods and technologies are also helpful to boost agro economic growth.
13). Innovation as one of the Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
Innovation is a byproduct of the need to develop agricultural methods and tools that are highly-effective and environment-friendly.
In sustainable agriculture, innovation occurs in terms of the adoption of practices like crop rotation, cover cropping and no-till farming. It also occurs in the form of new technologies for cultivation, harvest and processing.
Innovation in agriculture has many benefits. These include broadening the scope of existing knowledge, and providing improved ways to conserve resources, and to farm efficiently and productively.
Importance of Sustainable Agriculture
The importance of sustainable agriculture lies in its role in sustainable development; which is to achieve economic, environmental and social sustainability in the production of crops and livestock.
By helping to achieve sustainability, the practice of sustainable agriculture addresses various world problems like conflict, hunger, economic recession, and poverty.
Benefits of sustainable agriculture are;
- Pollution Mitigation
- Resource Conservation
- Energy Production and Conservation
- Increase in Biodiversity
- Erosion Control
- Food Security
- Social Equity, Socioeconomic Equality and Improved Living Standards
- Public Health and Safety Improvement
- Promotion of Ethical Practices
- Cost Reduction
- Raw Material Production
- Agro Economic Growth
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