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Sustainable Agriculture / Locally Grown

Sustainable Agriculture / Locally Grown

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Sustainable Agriculture / Locally Grown

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  1. Sustainable Agriculture / Locally Grown Pennsylvania Envirothon 2014 Current Issue

  2. What is sustainability? • From the word “sustain” meaning to keep in existence or maintain. • Implies long-term support or permanence.

  3. What is sustainable agriculture? A farm system that mimics the complexity of a healthy and natural ecosystem • Goals include: • Providing a more profitable farm income. • Promoting environmental stewardship. • Promoting stable, prosperous farm families and communities.

  4. Sustainable Agriculture: • Reduces inputs. • Uses ecological pest and weed management strategies. • Cycles nutrients back into the soil for fertility and health. • Strengthens rural and urban communities. • Produces viable farm income. • Promotes healthy family and social values. • Brings the consumer back into agriculture.

  5. Types of Sustainable Farming • Organic • Biodynamic • Permaculture (a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature) • Agroecological Systems • Low-input

  6. Why Sustainable Agriculture? Environmental Damage Economic concentration of agribusiness gives farmers little power or control over production, marketing, and distribution. Loss of farms – 155,000 farms were lost from 1987 to 1997 and 30 million acres have been lost to development.

  7. Environmental Sustainability Farms stay environmentally sustainable by mimicking natural processes. In sustainable agriculture, there are many varied interactions between soil, water, plants, animals, climate, and people. The GOAL is to combine all these components into a production system that benefits all participants.

  8. Farm as an Ecosystem: Energy Flow Energy flow is the pathway of sunlight through a biological system More energy can be captured by maximizing the leaf area available for photosynthesis then cycling the energy through the food chain. Farms make money by capturing sunlight – in essence, farming the sun.

  9. Farm as an Ecosystem: Water Cycle

  10. Sustainable Farms should be managed so: Effective water use on the farm results in: • low surface runoff, • low soil surface evaporation, • low drought incidence, • low flood incidence, • high transpiration by plants • high seepage of water to underground reservoirs (Savory and Butterfield, 1999). Precipitation will cause little soil erosion Soils will absorb and retain water Ground cover and organic matter in soils will enhance the natural water cycle.

  11. Farm as an Ecosystem: Mineral Cycle An effective mineral cycle is one where there is a movement of nutrients from the soil to crops and animals and then back to the soil. “A circle of nutrient removal” • Ways to enhance this cycle on the farm include: • on-farm feeding of livestock, • careful management of manure and crop residues, • practices that prevent erosion. In nature, minerals needed for plant and animal growth are continuously being recycled through the ecosystem.

  12. Farm as an Ecosystem: Biodiversity VS GREATER DIVERSITY = GREATER STABILITY A farm will be dynamic and healthy if it has a high diversity of plants and animals

  13. Social Sustainability Direct marketing through CSAs and farmers’ markets builds community and social sustainability. • Buying farm supplies locally rather than from out-of-state. School tours and farm internships. Quality of life on the farm for everyone involved with clear communication and general happiness with farm work.

  14. Economic Sustainability • Selecting profitable enterprises. • Sound financial planning. • Direct marketing. • Risk management.

  15. Principles of Soil Fertility Managementto sustain high crop productivity and quality Cover Crops Compost Tillage Irrigation • Crop rotations • Organic fertilizing techniques. • Balanced plant nutrients and pH.

  16. Soil Fertility: Cover Crops Perennial, biennial & annual cover crops all build soil. (vetch, rye, oats, clover, buckwheat, sudangrass) Increase nutrient availability. Temperature, moisture conditions, placement of the residue and quality of the cover crop influence nutrient release. Cover crops improve the soil’s physical properties with carbon and nitrogen cycling.

  17. Soil Fertility: Cover Crops Some suppress parasitic nematodes and soil borne diseases (rye, triticale, mustards) Suppress weeds by competing with them for light or through allelopathy (the suppression of growth of one plant species by another due to the release of toxic substances ) Reduce erosion Attract beneficial bugs.

  18. Cover Crops

  19. Soil Fertility: Composts Builds soil organic matter Adds nutrients to the soil Retains water Nutrient contribution is balanced between N-P-K • Easy • Economical • How much to apply and timing of application is different on each farm

  20. Animal Manure There are variations in nutrient profiles of animal manures. Grazing animals or other livestock on the farm produces compost for fields. Cannot apply raw manure to field for organic certification less than 120 days before harvest.

  21. Soil Fertility: Tillage Prepares the ground for seedlings and transplants. Provides a range of residue incorporation options. Enables the incorporation of amendments. Breaks up soil clods to form good seed and root beds. Improves soil aeration. Improves water infiltration. Increases rate of microbial activity and mineralization. Deep tillage can break through compacted layers.

  22. Tillage Accelerates the rate and extent of long-term declines in soil organic matter. May increase sub-soil compaction. High energy and labor costs. Loss of soil organic matter from excessive tillage can lead to crusting of bare soils.

  23. Reduced and no-tillage systems Residue cover protects the soil from wind and water erosion. Allows for greater moisture retention in rain-fed systems. These systems build soil organic matter over a period of years, and reach a higher “steady state” level than tilled systems in the same environment.

  24. Reduced and no-till systems Residue cover lowers soil temperatures, which delays seed germination and slows seedling growth. Weed control is very difficult without the use of herbicides. Requires specialized equipment to plant through thick layer of residue. Increased leaching of nutrients and herbicides into the groundwater has been shown in some conventional reduced and no-till systems after many years of these practices.

  25. Soil Fertility: Soil Amendments & Supplemental Fertilizers Organic amendments and fertilizers are useful as long as they are in balance with the rest of the system. Balance nutrient inputs with nutrient outputs each year: Inputs>outputs=accumulation. Results in risk of excess nutrients creating nonpoint source pollution and enhancing disease and pest incidence. Inputs<outputs=soil depletion. Potential risk of plant nutrient deficiencies and stress, reduced yield, and increased susceptibility to pest and pathogens.

  26. Soil Fertility: Crop Rotation Breaks weed and pest cycles. Provide complementary fertilization to crops in sequence with each other, i.e. legume crops preceding corn or tomatoes. In some cases, yield increases follow from the “rotation effect.” Ideal rotation includes planning over the long-term with field in rotation of crops, cover crops or sod, and livestock.

  27. Crop Rotation Considerations Avoid rotation of crop species that share similar pests and diseases. Rotate crops to maximize use of nutrient inputs and distribute nutrient demand placed on soil. Consider fallow periods and perennial cover crops. Intercropping: the growing of two or more crops in proximity to promote interaction between them.

  28. Other considerations for Crop Rotations Grow less-nitrogen-demanding crops such as oats, barley, or wheat in the second or third year after a legume sod. Use longer periods of perennial crops, such as legume sod, on sloping land and on highly erosive soils. Try to grow a deep-rooted crop, such as alfalfa, safflower, or sunflower as part of the rotation. Grow some crops that will leave a significant amount of residues, like sorghum or corn harvested for grain, to help maintain organic matter levels.

  29. Ecological Weed Management • Optimizes crop growth and minimizes weed pressure. • Thoroughly clean equipment before moving it from one farm or location to another to avoid transporting weed seeds from infested fields. • Do not allow weeds to form seed heads and/or perennial rooting structure in the cropping systems. • Work with neighbors to eliminate or minimize the potential for spread of noxious and problematic weeds from adjacent lands. Thoroughly compost all imported animal manure to insure destruction of viable weed seed.

  30. Cultural Weed Practices • Crop Rotations • Tillage • Planting and Cultivation • Rotational Grazing • Mowing • Irrigation • Flame Weeding • Mulches

  31. Ecological Pest Management • Intercropping, diversity and cover cropping • Crop rotation • Farmscaping • Use of resistant varieties

  32. Ecological Pest Management • Biological controls • Organic chemical controls • Physical controls Integrated Pest Management • Integrates habitat modification and cultural, physical, biological and chemical practices to minimize crop losses. • Monitoring, record keeping, and life-cycle information about pests and their natural enemies are used to determine which control measures are necessary.

  33. Plant Disease Manipulations • Environmental manipulations: • increasing plant spacing to reduce humidity • regulating irrigation • choosing where crop is grown • Host manipulations: • resistant cultivars • pathogen-free planting materials • crop rotation • intercropping • Pathogen manipulations: • removal of host tissue • organic chemical controls (neem, copper, sulfur, etc.) Compost teas can help control fungal diseases. Foliar sprays are also effective.

  34. Rotational Grazing • Using fencing and livestock movements as tools to manage forage growth and protect it from overgrazing. • Pastures are subdivided into paddocks-fenced acreage of any given size. Livestock is moved between paddocks at frequent intervals, giving animals access to a limited pasture area over a short period of time • As a result, the plants have time to recover, the roots maintain energy reserves, and the livestock always have high quality forage. • Skillfully using livestock to harvest forages leads to • improved soil fertility, • a diverse, dense, and useful pasture ecology • an extended grazing season • healthy animals

  35. Sustainable Pasture Management • Lands most susceptible to erosion can be maintained as permanent sod. • Land use for row crops benefits from a year or more in pasture as part of a crop rotation plan. • Soil health improves as the content of organic matter increases under good grazing management. • Soil structure improves over time as compaction and hardpan is reduced. • Good pastures mixes include a variety of grasses, forbs, and legumes.

  36. Mixed Species Grazing • Cattle prefer grass over other types of plants, and are less selective when grazing than sheep or goats. Sheep and goats on the other hand, are much more likely to eat weeds. • Mixed species grazing may also benefit pastures that are less diverse, by encouraging more even grazing. • Parasite control.

  37. Bringing It All Together:Integrated Farming Systems • Goal is to find and adopt “integrated and resource-efficient crop and livestock systems that: • maintain productivity • are profitable • protect the environment • protect the personal health of farmers and their families • overcome the barriers to adoption of more sustainable agricultural

  38. Organic Certification • All producers who would like to certify must follow organic standards set out by USDA. • In general, organic rules do not allow: • synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides in crop production • use of antibiotics, hormones, and non-organic feed in livestock. • Also…Livestock must have access to pasture. • For more information on how to certify, go to

  39. “The best way to communicate the meaning of sustainable agriculture is through real-life stories of farmers who are developing sustainable farming systems on their own farms.” -John Ikerd

  40. The foremost program of the Farm is the Cherry Valley CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) which provides a weekly share of produce to at least 125 families in the local community.  Families who participate in the farm support the cost of raising delicious vegetables, and help maintain the environmental and scenic quality of the beautiful Cherry Valley area of the Pocono Mountains. They become connected with and mindful of the real needs of our Earth. Josie Porter Farm 6514 Cherry Valley Rd., Stroudsburg, Pa. 18360 570-992-0899

  41. Sunnyside Farm – Dover, PA2013 Outstanding Conservation FarmerYork County Conservation District • Sunnyside Farm is a pasture based, intensive grazed family farm in Dover, PA. They offer eggs, chicken, turkey (for Thanksgiving), pork and beef. Run by Homer Walden and his wife Dru Peters, they are working to reduce emissions by only using people and animal power on their property. Their cows mow the grass, the chickens and turkeys follow behind and the pigs rototill their garden plots. They do not own a tractor. They grow heritage breeds and make every effort to get GMO free feed for our birds.

  42. Village Acres Farms & FoodShed • Celebrating 30 years of farming, 20 years of Organic certification and 15 years of serving the community through a CSA model, Village Acres operates as a diversified system, integrating vegetables, berries and pastured livestock.

  43. This presentation was made available with information provided by: • Oregon State University Extension Small Farms • Pennsylvania Farmers Union • Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis • USDA • Sustainable Agriculture Research Education • Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas • National Agroforestry Center • Pennsylvania Preferred Program

  44. Pennsylvania Envirothon 702 West Pitt Street, Suite 3 Bedford, PA 15522 PH: (814) 623-7900 ext. 111 E-mail: Web: