When members of the agriculture community look towards the future, they are often worried. While there are many things that concern them, how to improve agriculture production in such a way that it continues to feed a population tha is expected to swell to 9 billion people in the next 30 years while also conserving natural resources is one of the pressing concerns farmers and other members of the agricultural community currently face. Integrated farming is one of the potential solutions the agriculture industry is exploring.
What is integrated farming?
Integrated farming is the practice of using a variety of tactics designed to not only increase production on the farm while reducing the toll on natural resources.
Integrated farming is an attempt to mirror the same principles that nature has always used. It means that rather than simply producing a single crop or raising a limited amount of livestock, farmers focus on raising a variety of animals, crops and even aquatic plants and animals in a way that each one creates a symbiotic relationship with one another, resulting in an increase of production and a decrease in expenses and an increase in ecological diversity. In the United States, many farmers have long used integrated farming and been quite happy with the results.
More and more small, struggling farmers in traditionally rural, struggling communities, such as those in India, have successfully developed integrated farming practices.
Developing an integrated farming system
One of the things farmers in the second- and third-world countries are beginning to learn is that an integrated farming system does not happen overnight. It takes time and commitment from everyone involved in the program before any noticeable results can be seen.
It generally takes anywhere from three to four years for the farmers to completely switch over from their current farming system to a fully integrated system, and that time period is generally quite labor intensive with everyone involved having to pitch in. Because of the need to learn what types of livestock need to be raised in order to both feed the community and provide organic fertilizer for the crops, plus the need to create a crop rotation schedule, farmers who are just starting to adapt integrated farming practices learn to start thinking about the future of their farm.
One of the things the All India Coordinated Programme on BIOFARM did was involve 300 different farms in a pilot program designed to explore how India's agriculture industry benefit from an integrated farming system. The results were very encouraging.
The 300 farms involved in the program were scattered in 15 different states, which allowed the program to work with a variety of soil types as well as other environmental challenges. When the program ended, 33 percent of the participating farms reported that they would increased species diversity by 50 to 100 percent and experienced a significant increase in net returns. Forty-four percent of the participating farms reported an increase in net returns that exceeded 100 percent. It is important to report that 36 percent of the participating farms did report a loss in net returns. When the reason for the net loss was explored, it was determined that one of the biggest differences these between the farmers and the ones that reported significant gains was the amount of money that was used to invest in both land and diversified livestock.