Tuesday, May 28

Sustainable South: A Healthy Farm is a Happy Farm

Infographic by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
As the debate over the current farm bill heats up, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has published a friendly infographic of a vision for U.S. agriculture. Specifically, the graph illustrates its vision of a healthy farm. The visual offers recommendations that suggest—with apologies to John Donne—no farm is an island entire of itself. The UCS's tips for healthy farming practices include:
  • Landscape approach—Uncultivated areas of land can play a significant role in the health of farmed land. The trees, shrubs, and grasses along the edges of crops can serve as resources for farmers by fostering biodiversity, providing habitat for pollinators, and reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Crop diversity and rotation—The SFA seeks to set a table where all may gather. The UCS envisions a field where all may grow. Just as we believe diversity is good for society, there are many benefits to growing an array of crops in a single field. It increases soil fertility. It reduces the need for pesticides. It produces higher yields. The list goes on and on. Despite these benefits, many American regions tend to be dominated one or two crops. Southern states can attest to that.
  • Integrating crops and livestock—Along the same lines as crop diversity and rotation, plants and animals are good for each other. Recycling the nutrients left behind by plants and animals as fertilizer reduces the pollutant run-off from fields into waterways, prevents soil erosion, increases soil fertility, and provides a habitat for beneficial microorganisms that keep livestock healthy.
  • Cover crops—We’ve heard it over and over again: Cover crops are essential to soil health. When fields are left bare between growing seasons, soil erodes, and nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers contaminate groundwater and streams. Cover crops nourish the soil and help farmers maintain long-term productivity of their land.
Click on the picture above to learn more about the practices and benefits.