How Science Sustains the Future of Farming
Today’s farmers are doing a great job of providing for a growing population while caring for their land, but they won’t stop here. Sustainability is a moving target and improvements will continue with the development of new research and technologies that can help all of us do better.
Over the years, technology has been the driver behind evolving farm practices. But what’s been driving that technology? In many cases, it has been sustainability goals.
What is Farm Sustainability?
“Sustainable” can mean a lot of things. The term can refer to soil health, water quality, even the financial viability of the production system. Here’s how USDA defines sustainable agriculture:
An integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will over the long-term:
- Satisfy human food and fiber needs.
- Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends.
- Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls.
- Sustain the economic viability of farm operations.
- Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.
That’s a lot to sort through. Basically, farm sustainability practices work to meet the needs of our environment, our people and our farmers.
Farm Sustainability Today
From crop rotation to the moldboard plow, the history of agriculture is a story of change and innovation. Today, technology and continued research are the driving forces behind many of the modern farm’s sustainability practices. You can read numerous lots of perspectives on sustainability practices from Illinois farmers on our blog, including:
- An app that measures farm sustainability
- How GMOs impact sustainability
- Varying tillage practices to conserve soil and water
- Sustainable feed sources for animals
- Precision farming
- Grazing otherwise unusable land
Farm Sustainability in the Future
We already see some exciting possibilities on the horizon for agriculture:
- Bioengineering and gene edited seeds (a.k.a. CRISPR)
- “See and Spray” technology to target weeds directly
- Measuring electric conductivity of the soil to establish plant-available water and be more conservative with irrigation
- Planter attachments to measure organic matter of the soil right where the seeds are going
The future looks bright for farm sustainability. Farmers and consumers alike are focused on doing all we can to make sure we are being sustainable and caring for our environment. Making sure agriculture can continue to feed and clothe a growing population will be key to all our tomorrows.