Considerations on Sustainable Agriculture

Source: Revista Attalea Agronegócios.

By AFONSO PECHE FILHO scientific researcher of the Agronomic Institute of Campinas - IAC. 

Sustainable agriculture can be defined as a part of economic development that takes into account aspects related to the welfare of society and local ecosystems. A fundamental point of sustainable agriculture is its economic essence, which is influenced by environmental and social factors and, above all, the respect for all forms of life. In the field of ecology, sustainable agriculture can be defined as a condition that is maintained over time by itself, with income, without erosion, without compaction and without degradation. It is a condition of high resilience and suppressiveness, full of biodiversity. With technological help, it enhances production without compromising or giving rise to a shortage of existing natural resources.

Conventional farming cannot be considered sustainable. It has as reference the excessive use of nature, land, water, plants and man. It occurs in an economy focused on rapid profit and technical consumption to the detriment of other forms of life. Conventional agriculture has brought numerous technological advances, but it has also brought a certainty: today we have many environmental problems. Thus, this type of agriculture condemns our future by bringing more uncertainty and distances us from responsibility towards future generations.

It is not sustainable to stimulate agriculture only to increase production and relegate the maintenance of productive perennial conditions to a lower point of priority. It is unsustainable to produce while compromising the area's productive capacity and profitability. Therefore, the competitiveness is predatory of its own productive system, making the survival of the farmer more and more compromised. Using cutting-edge technology and passively living with land degradation brings imbalances difficult to correct. The degraded land does not disappear, the one who does disappear is the farmer who bankrupts and leaves the market.

In the search for sustainable agriculture, the first practical step is self-criticism. The capacity to critically evaluate financial, environmental and social results must be developed. Self-criticism is done through the analysis of facts, ways of using technology, recognizing errors and identifying possibilities of correction. Through this reflection, we can review and change our positions on decisions in personal or professional life. All this contributes to the qualification of the farmer to practice the proper use of ecosystems, lands, technologies and human resources. That is, qualification for the practice of sustainability.

The second step is the willingness to review forms of land occupation and its use. The soil undergoes a kind of "progressive degradative" metamorphosis, at the risk of presenting serious problems, resulting from the same occupation design (roads, conveyors, paths, traffic lines). The soil also suffers from accumulation of negative effects due to the use and continuous exposure to sun and rains. Nowadays on many farms it is possible to visualize the "erosion scars" and many puddle points. It is not difficult to find roads or paths "embedded" in the bed accumulating erosion runoff.

Sustainable agriculture recommends a more balanced trade intervention with self-restraint mechanisms. Conditions are created for less aggression and greater soil protection, to protect springs and forest fragments, in addition to enhancing biodiversity. Conditions are developed to reduce dependence on the indiscriminate use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and to effectively optimize the genetic potential of cultivated plants.

The purpose of sustainable agriculture is the construction of productive environments and not degraded environments. There is no agricultural land with only utilitarian value, but cultivated land for life. Biodiversity in balance protects the profitability and longevity of farmers. Sustainable agriculture leads to the path of a more humane society and a future with the certainty of balance and more income.

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