So, what is sustainable agriculture? It is the use of farming techniques that have minimal impact on the environment. It is an integrated system between plant / animal production and the local environment. It strives to find the balance between the need to produce food and the need to nurture the biodiversity of our environment. It looks to conserve water and reduce the use of pesticides / fertilizers. It is a long-term approach to agriculture. Sustainable farming also promotes the need to maintain economic stability for farmers, it strives to improve farming techniques and the overall quality of life for farmers and their consumers.
Basically, it looks to reduce costs, improve the environment and produce better quality food which is more nutritious. It is the rejection of industrialised farming and food production, which has resulted in many environment and social consequences. Such as; soil erosion, poor soil health, contaminated water resources, increase in weeds, loss of ecosystems, loss of forests and the decline of family run farms.
What are the benefits of Sustainable Agriculture?
The benefits of Sustainable Agriculture can be broken into three main groups;
Human Health Benefits;
- crops that have not be treated with excessive chemicals, reduces the health risks to humans.
- Foods produced sustainably are generally more nutritious.
- Prevents farm pollution by avoiding the use of pesticides and fertilizers
- Improves soil health and promotes biodiversity through crop and livestock rotation
- Conserves water and ensures the environment is not depleted for future generations
- Simulates farming practices similar to natural ecological activities
Economic and Social Benefits;
- Promotes farmers rights in regards to food pricing and receiving a fair income.
- Actively looks to reduce unnecessary input costs
- Treats livestock with respect in-turn producing better quality food
Soil Health is key to Sustainable Agriculture –
Mulching can assist your soils
Most growers realise that soil health is key to improving the efficiency of their farm, reducing costs and promoting bio-diveristy. One method to assist in soil health is to mulch your paddocks. This technique has been popular in Europe for many years. Australian farmers are now seeing the benefit of mulching rather than slashing.
So why mulch rather than slash a paddock?
There are many advantages to mulching over slashing – below are just a few;
Slashing a paddock creates windrows. A windrow is a long line of heaped grass material. This unevenly heaped material kills the patches of grass below. Promoting weeds and reducing viable farm land. Windrows are not aesthetically pleasing either.
Flail Mowers create ‘mulch’, that is, the grass is cut into finer particles and spread evenly over the pasture, leaving no windrows. For more information about the difference between mulching and slashing click here.
Naturally Control Weeds
Mulching your paddocks can naturally control weeds. Mulch evenly dispersed over your paddock, will act as a barrier, reducing sunlight that promotes weed growth.
Retain Moisture and Prevent Soil Erosion
Mulching with a Flail Mower delivers an organic bi-product to your paddock creating a layer which absorbs water while also limiting evaporation. Moisture retention is key for promoting soil health and also prepares your pasture for the drier months.
Mulching also prevents soil erosion and compaction, limiting run-off from heavy rains, avoiding soil from drying out by wind. Mulch also maintains an even soil temperature.
Mulch Promotes Nutrients in the Soil
Mulching ensures nutrients are not washed away in heavy rains. Mulching also releases nutrients back into the soil. This is achieved through the organic material slowly decomposing on the top of the soil. This process makes fertilisers unnecessary. Improving soil structure and fertility.
Mulch Encourages Earth Worms and Natural Recycling
A Flail Mower produces cut material which is heavily shredded and defibred, it then deposits this evenly and loosely on the ground. This grass / mulch layer starts an intensive composting process on the surface, encouraging earth worms to occupy the soil. This contributes to improving soil structure and nutrient cycling. This natural cycle strengthens the soil, activates aeration and encourages humus formation.
Mulching and Sustainable Farming
Mulching can be an integral part of sustainable farming. Mulching pasture directly relates to the key goals of sustainable agriculture; promoting soil health and biodiversity, conserving water, reducing the needs of pesticides and fertilizers, reducing input costs.
Southern Cross Ag Machinery is the Australian distributor for the German range of “Muthing” Mulchers / Flail Mowers. “Muthing” is German engineering at its best, their range of mulchers are second to none. “Muthing” mulchers are different to other on the market with their primary focus being on the quality of the bi-product “the mulch”. Better quality mulch means better pastures, achieving the goals of a sustainable farmer. For more information on “Muthing” mulchers please call (02) 4932 3011 or visit www.sxm.com.au.