Sustainability is a big word around farming and agriculture. As consumers, we want our food to be grown sustainably, but we’re not quite sure what that even means. To farmers, sustainability means continuous improvement. It means creating a healthier farm and business for their families, and healthier food and planet for everyone. It means using a variety of tools, both old and new.
- Using Cover Crops on their Fields
Growing crops can deplete some key nutrients, making it harder to grow a healthy crop on the same land year after year. In order to increase plant matter in the soil, replace lost nutrients and break up soil compaction, farmers use crop rotation and cover crops. Cover crops are a special type of plant – listed here by the USDA – that doesn’t get harvested. Instead, these plants stay in the ground until next year’s crop is planted on top of them, or they’re tilled into the soil to improve soil health.
- No Till and Conservation Tillage
Soil erosion is a big concern for both farmers and consumers. To combat this, farmers will leave the roots and stubble of crops from seasons past – think the “stumps” of corn and soy plants – and plant seeds for the current season on top of it. This practice is called “no till.” Farmers literally do not till or plow the soil unless absolutely necessary.
- Precision Ag Technology
We use technology in just about everything we do from ordering food to paying bills to dating. Why shouldn’t farmers use it, too? Farmers use a variety of technologies to produce a healthier and more sustainable crop. Precision tools and equipment gather data from planting the crop to harvesting. This data gives farmers the necessary information to make better decisions about when and what to plant, what needs the crop will have throughout the season and when to harvest.
Sustainability is a broad concept but, when it comes down to it, it means creating a better planet, which is something we’re all on board with.
Featured image and precision technology photo courtesy of United Soybean Board.