All of the world depends on agriculture; however, only a few countries are agricultural-based. Most of the areas dedicated to farming and the growth of edible plants are rural areas rich in natural resources.
It is safe to say that at least a third of the world’s population works in the agricultural industry, with more than half of the earth’s population actually living in areas that are considered rural. With so many people living and working in these areas, a lot depends on the health of the agricultural sector.
The world’s food security also is dependent upon the contributions of the sector. Still, despite its importance, it faces a wide range of challenges and threats that may disrupt the delicate balance. In terms of what poses a threat to agricultural sustainability, the most prominent are the issues over arable land and useable water.
In recent years, there has also been a decrease in funding, support services, and even labor shortages that have further become a threat to agricultural sustainability. Above all, one of the main threats to agricultural sustainability has been climate change and food cultivation.
Table of Contents
Why is Agriculture Important?
Before we get into the various threats to sustainability that agriculture is facing, it is critical to understand just how important agriculture to the human race and the planet in general.
Agriculture plays an important role in the US and all over the world. In fact, it may just be the single most important industry in the world. It covers not only food crops but also livestock. Due to agriculture, the world has a steady supply of fabrics, food, and other materials used in just about every other industry.
The agriculture industry directly affects your family and communities even if you don’t own, operate, or work on a farm. All of the food you consume daily is a direct result of the agriculture industry.
The same goes for all of the fabrics you see. Either fabric is made from plants grown by farmers or from animal hair and skin that ranchers produce. Without agriculture, we would lack both food and fabrics that help us in our daily lives.
It also plays a big role in the economy. In the US alone, agriculture accounts for more than 1 trillion dollars of the GDP. In addition to direct finance, the agriculture industry generates more than 23 million jobs in the United States alone. The agriculture field also plays a big role in each nation’s health and the world as a whole.
One of the most commonly grown plants, for example, is Alfalfa. This little crop is rich in nutrients and minerals that it is the main food source for most livestock.
Humans also consume it due to its health benefits and its pleasing taste. There are hundreds of plants and fruits cultivated in the agriculture sector used to help maintain communities and the animals within.
With a huge shift towards renewable sources of energy, agriculture has further increased in importance. Ethanol, which is one of the main types of biofuel, is derived from corn.
Other biofuels are sourced from algae and other organic cultivated by the agriculture industry. Although agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse emissions, it is also one of the biggest contributors of energy that is helping to reduce emissions and break the dependence of the world on fossil fuels.
See Related: What is the Real Impact of Climate Migration?
The Real Importance of Agricultural Sustainability
There are many reasons why agricultural sustainability is important, but a few of them have more importance than others. By 2050, the estimated population will reach just under 10 billion people.
As a result, the food production alone will need to increase by at least 70% to meet the basic demands of the estimated population.
The current cultivation method is a conservative industrial food system that is already falling behind in addressing the current population’s edition. As the population grows, the agricultural sector will need to focus more on sustainability and sustainable farming to prevent food shortages worldwide.
Another reason agricultural sustainability is important is that we have to care to maintain healthy earth soil. Most traditional forms of farming entail concentrated use of fertilizers and heavy tillage to increase output.
While this does help increase the supply of essentials, it can also harm the natural environment due to polluted runoff. The soil ecology is also harmed with the land is overworked repeatedly without being given time to heal. In fact, lack of proper soil nourishment can lead to pests, disease in plants, and even drought, among other problems.
Sustainable agriculture focuses on meeting the needs of the community while also ensuring the plants and animals are cared for in a way that supports their longevity.
Industrial farming is energy-intensive and also uses a high concentration of fossil fuels. Not only does this contribute to pollution levels, but it also drains the planet of its resources much faster than they are replaced.
Sustainable agriculture that uses smart farming systems will reduce the demands on fossil fuels and reduce the overall amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable farming will not only be healthier for the planet, but it will also result in crops and animals that are healthier as well.
The threat to the freshwater supply has long been a concern not only in the agricultural industry but in every field. Vast amounts of fresh water are needed for irrigation, cultivation, and animal consumption. As the population increases, so make the demands on the water supply.
Sustainable agricultural systems will help conserve water while also ensuring pollution is kept to a minimum, thus ensuring a clean water supply for future generations.
Creating sustainable agriculture will help reduce the spread of plant diseases. Older farming methods tend to rely on a monoculture which increases the vulnerability of the local environment to pests, insect infestation, and diseaHighhigh concentrations of pesticides and herbicides are to combat these issues used, which unfortunately can cause water and soil pollution and slowly leeching into the food supply, which is bad for animals and humans alike.
Sustainable agriculture will prevent this dependence on a single crop and further boost each farming area’s healthy and local ecosystem. It will also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lead to reduced water and energy consumption.
See Related: Environmental Justice Jobs
The Importance Of Sustainable Agriculture
Sustainable agriculture that is in harmony with nature allows both humans and the environment to thrive mutually. Instead of dominating nature and using it until nothing is left, maintaining sustainable methods will allow nature to progress naturally while also fulfilling the population’s needs.
It helps communities but allowing local farmers and producers to maintain a quality standard of living while also encouraging healthier food production overall.
If farmers and workers can earn a living wage following sustainable methods, it will help stabilize the worldwide food supply overall. Working towards sustainable agriculture will decentralize the industry, reduce food insecurity, and lower global pollution levels dramatically.
See Related: What is Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)?
What Is The Greatest Threat to Agricultural Sustainability?
There are many threats to agricultural sustainability, and if you ask which is the greatest, the answer will depending on to whom the question is posed.
Depending on the location, the threat can range from salinity to lack of water. In many parts of the world, erosion is a big threat that till now has no solution. While most people assume that only land located next to the ocean can erode, any land can actually face this problem.
Erosion in agriculture is caused when the soil is damaged due to tillage and over-cultivation. The soil detaches, moves, and its disposition changes, making it either less effective or completely unusable. Unfortunately, soil erosion occurs much quicker than new soil is cultivated, which leads to a lack of sustainability.
In other areas, low yield is one of the biggest threats to the agricultural sector. Even when farm sizes are average to large, poor infrastructure, outdated farming techniques, and low soil fertility levels can lead to lower yields per acre than other more developed areas.
As a whole, this causes farmers in these areas to increase their use of chemicals and fertilizers to increase production to earn a living wage. Sadly, these methods are short-lived and end up causing more pollution in the land, water, and the air. Scarcity of resources is another threat to agricultural sustainability.
Mainly the scarcity of fresh water and healthy land. Climate change is a global problem that has increased the need for fresh water in farming and regular consumption. At the same time, although the demand has increased, the supply has steadily shrunk.
Overall, the biggest threat to agricultural sustainability is climate change. There has been a 5% decline per decade in crop yields which is a direct result of heat, weather volatility, drought, super-storms, insect infestations, flooding, and seasonal changes all brought on by the increasing levels of global warming.
There now less soil fertility and useful water per hectare while the number of persons to feed for the same space have increased.
This has resulted in an imbalance in nature that only increases along with the population as time goes by. Climate change paired with population increases also result in lower amounts of freshwater per person and lower levels of rainfall.
As the population increases, water levels decrease, and the demands for food and energy continue to expand, global warming is further exacerbated. The use of chemicals and quick but harmful farming methods seek to meet the immediate need for food and energy by the population but harm the environment at the same rate.
This never-ending cycle of consumption and expansion without replenishing the natural resources is further increasing the level of global warming. The best way to combat global warming and work towards agricultural sustainability is by converting traditional farming and agriculture methods are organic and earth-friendly.
Removing the dependence of conventional agriculture on petrol will reduce global warming. This means taking it out of tractor fuel, nitrate fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.
Maintaining our phosphorus sources more efficiently will also lead towards sustainability, among other things. With so much at stake, it will take a global effort to reduce global warming and move toward a sustainable future.