5 Exciting Solutions Helping to Preserve and Protect at-Risk Farmland
Farmland worldwide is constantly exposed to many threats, including natural disasters, land degradation, pest infestation and water scarcity. Climate change has compounded all these issues, putting a greater strain on farmland preservation. Other issues, like food waste, labor shortages and urbanization, also continue to grow.
Farmers and agricultural stakeholders can contribute to more sustainable and efficient agricultural systems by supporting research and innovation in farming technologies. They can also accomplish this goal by sourcing the right farming supplies and equipment, which optimize land productivity, preserve soil health, and minimize land degradation. In addition, choosing seeds adapted to local conditions and highly resilient to pests and diseases can reduce the need for excessive pesticide use.
Agro-Friendly Urban Planning
More farmland is wiped out as the developed world becomes more urbanized and cities expand. According to American Farmland Trust, the United States lost or compromised about 2,000 acres per day from 2001 to 2016 due largely to urban and suburban sprawl.
Farmers can’t eliminate cities and neighborhoods, but they can collaborate with city officials to create more agro-friendly urban planning. That’s exactly what has happened as municipalities develop into new types of farmlands. Instead of filling every square inch with pavement and skyscrapers, planners and citizens are implementing some greener features:
- Private gardens in yards, greenhouses, patios and rooftops
- Government-funded community gardens in greenhouses, fields and unoccupied lots
- Urban agriculture grant programs
These public and private gardens go a long way toward addressing the food crisis and maintaining agricultural roots. Aside from protecting farmland, urban agriculture brings many other benefits to the surrounding communities:
- Environment: Farming in the city produces fewer carbon emissions from truck deliveries, also known as “food miles.” Greener urban landscapes absorb more of the greenhouse gasses cities create, leading to better air quality. The small farms also soak up rainfall, which prevents flooding. All in all, urban farming makes cities more resilient to climate change.
- Economy: Urban agriculture provides farmers, gardeners, equipment manufacturers and many other professionals with more job opportunities. It also helps reduce food costs for families in the area because harvesting, packaging and transportation are less expensive and time-consuming.
- Overall health: Quicker farm-to-table times mean the food has more nutritional value than products from across the country or overseas. More urban farmland also means citizens stay active with productive outdoor activities, leading to better physical and mental health.
Urban planning and private initiatives with small-scale farmlands could be the future of agriculture as cities become more advanced and densely populated. Instead of wiping out farms to make room for new buildings, city officials can seamlessly integrate them into infrastructure.
Sustainable Farming Machinery
Farmland preservation isn’t just about developing new agricultural techniques. It also requires tools and equipment. These pieces of advanced machinery are starting to play more prominent roles in preserving agricultural infrastructure:
- Aerial imaging: Farmers can use drones to take aerial footage of their croplands, enabling them to identify weaknesses and environmental threats before they make the land unsuitable for farming.
- Internet of Things (IoT) sensors: IoT has many valuable applications in agriculture, including equipment tracking, livestock supervision, soil moisture monitoring and weather forecasting. Farmers have more insights than ever to help them keep their lands in good condition.
- Farming robots: Farming robots powered by artificial intelligence can perform many agricultural tasks, from tilling the soil to harvesting crops. This technology compensates for the lack of skilled laborers and ensures farmland is responsibly managed.
Integrating these technologies into small-scale urban farms will be challenging, but it’s a step the agriculture industry must take to improve farmland preservation.
Volatile organic compounds are natural chemicals found in building materials and some household products. They can become harmful when they turn into vapors and invisible gases, contaminating the air and leading to potential health problems. However, despite their dangers in indoor environments, they could offer a solution to plant and soil degradation.
Researchers from the Institute of Sustainable Plant Protection have found that VOCs are highly effective repellent agents for food crops, keeping pests away and increasing the crops’ resistance to bacterial infections. They also prevent the growth of deadly plant pathogens, keeping food healthy and safe to eat.
Instead of using chemical pesticides and fertilizers that harm the crops’ nutritional value, farmers can use VOCs to protect their plants and create a better finished product. Although research for this practice is still ongoing, it has shown much promise in plant life and farmland preservation.
Regenerative agriculture is a broad term referring to sustainable farming practices that support the soil’s health instead of degrading it. There are many aspects to regenerative agriculture, including regenerating topsoil, increasing biodiversity, maintaining the water cycle and integrating ideal livestock for the local climate.
Regenerative agriculture aims to maximize what nature provides. It eliminates many chemical products such as pesticides and fertilizers, relying on the land’s shape and natural resources instead. This new-age farming method addresses issues such as land degradation and water scarcity.
One particular sector of regenerative farming has gained the most popularity: crop rotation. Farmers plant crops in specific patterns throughout the year, which allows the soil to replenish its nutrients and remain fertile. Instead of drying up the farmland and moving on to the next unused plot of land, farms can stay in the same locations for decades.
Stricter Environmental Regulations
Introducing new farming methods and technologies to the fold is important for farmland preservation, but there’s not enough time to let these elements develop naturally. Climate change is too big of a threat. Some government intervention is required to bring the agriculture industry’s standards up to speed and emphasize the sense of urgency.
The United States has passed laws on state and federal levels, such as the Agriculture Area Security Law, Agriculture Protection Zoning and the Farmland Protection Policy Act. This legislation ensures agricultural land retains its value, lowers taxes, minimizes farmland conversion and sets higher standards for local farmers.
Federal and nonprofit organizations like the Green Business Bureau have also significantly changed the industry’s attitudes. They have introduced new programs to educate farmers about recent advancements in sustainable farming, helping communities keep pace with the agriculture industry’s evolution.
Nonprofits have also introduced green business certifications (GBCs), which verify the farm’s commitment to eco-friendly practices and ensure the land is managed correctly. These organized efforts create real change and prioritize farmland preservation, weeding out the bad apples and rewarding those who adapt.
Farmland Preservation Shows Great Promise
Although the agriculture industry is facing a seemingly insurmountable number of challenges, there’s been some promising developments in farmland preservation. Urban small-scale farms, technological advancements, optimized farming techniques, chemical solutions and government intervention all have crucial roles to play.