Sunday, November 24, 2013

Day 21: What is Sustainability?

I have returned from my four day hiatus.  Sorry to leave you hanging...

What is sustainability?  This is what has to say.

[suh-stey-nuh-bil-i-tee] Show IPA
the ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed.
Environmental Science. the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance: The committee is developing sustainability standards for products that use energy.
What do we mean by sustainability in agriculture and food?  It means we are trying to ensure you can all be fed for years to come!  Well doesn't that just sound dandy?  "How sweet and cliché," I'm sure is the thought on some of your minds. 
No-Till - a method of planting and raising crops without the traditional step of tilling the soil.  Why do we do this?  There is a whole blog post coming about no-till, so prepare yourself.  In short, no-till is a way of cutting down on the amount of soil and nutrient runoff, and also keeping more organic matter on the soil surface year after year.  This practice, over time, should lead to increased yields, and better soil conditions.  This is not something that works in one year.  Note that fact. Too commonly producers expect to see major improvements after one year.  It does not work that way.  I know producers who personally have seen many benefits after nearly three decades of no-till farming combined with cover cropping every year.
Cover Cropping - planting certain types of crops after fall harvesting that will build a root system and keep your soil held in place throughout the winter in efforts to reduce runoff from bare fields.  Often farmers will choose cover crops to try to help replenish some of the nutrients lost in the previous year.  Annual Ryegrass for example, stores nitrogen.  If this is planted as a cover crop in the fall, and killed off in the spring, throughout the growing season, it will release nitrogen to assist in the growth of your current crop. 
Variable-Rate Planting and Spraying - With current GPS and computer technology that can be used in today's equipment, we can keep tabs on what rate crops were planted across a field, and at harvest use the same system to analyze what parts of the field did better or worse than others.  If we use this, we can better target where to apply nutrients, and target what portions of the field need to be planted at a higher seeding rate.  This is all in efforts to improve soil quality, crop condition, and avoid over/under applying of nutrients.
There is much more I could continue about, but this is a start.  Others include steps to protect rivers and streams from chemical contact, reducing the chemicals used in production, and breeding hybrid plants that will produce a healthier, more abundant crop to continue feeding the growing population. 
When I say farmers, ranchers, and others in the industry are working every day to ensure your health and hunger needs are met, I'm not kidding.  You're the consumer, and if the consumer is not happy, you won't be doing anyone any good.
Linking up with Holly here.

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