For years, many businesses have focused on sustainable efforts like repurposing old clothes, reducing single-use plastic, and lessening carbon emissions. As one of the leading agricultural cooperatives in South Africa, we want to take a sustainable deep dive into where it all starts – the soil.
This need to be sustainable has been driven by various factors, like climate change, economic instability, and ensuring food security for future generations. Various efforts have already been made to promote sustainable practices across the country.
We will highlight how regenerative and conservational agriculture helps sustainability efforts and how practices like minimal soil disturbance, reducing pesticide use, and something as easy as crop covers, all contribute to leaving the soil better than we found it.
What is sustainable agriculture?
Sustainable agriculture is a method of agriculture that uses resources, like soil, water, and plants, to produce goods that meet our changing needs, while ensuring the long-term potential of these resources from an environmental, social, and economic perspective.
By farming sustainably, farmers can meet society’s present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
Sustainable agriculture seeks to maintain systems without degrading them, whereas regenerative agriculture applies management techniques to improve the land’s health and fertility over time.
These methods are not mutually exclusive. Regenerative farming can seamlessly integrate into an overarching sustainability plan. The practices might overlap, but the key difference lies in how they are implemented and managed.
On the other hand, regenerative agriculture builds on conservation agriculture. It seeks to enhance and sustain the health of the soil by restoring its organic matter, boosting its fertility and productivity. Regenerative agriculture focuses on soil health, reminding us that the world cannot be fed unless the soil is fed.
Conservation agriculture aims to keep the soil together, as a living ecosystem that enables food production and helps address climate change. Through the conservation of soil, the biodiversity of soil is enhanced both within and above the soil, ultimately resulting in improved and sustained food production.
How to protect the soil
Both agricultural practices include very similar principles and efforts that farmers can implement to keep their soil in optimal condition. These principles are:
- Minimal soil disturbance
Traditional farming methods often involve extensive ploughing and tilling, which damages the soil structure and can lead to soil erosion. Compaction also reduces pore spaces in the soil, leading to the soil being oxygen deficient, saturated with water, and left with less micro-organisms.
Various CLAAS crawler units utilise advanced technology and components, like TERRA TRAC technology, to avoid soil compaction usually caused by tractors or harvesting machines.
When using this technology, you not only reduce soil damage but also ensure efficient land tillage while maintaining soil health. This sustainable implementation of technology is why OBARO has aligned its vision with CLAAS, by being aligned with the farmer and protecting their most precious resource.
A good soil state also keeps the requirement for fertiliser to a minimum, the soil can now make better use of the available nutrients than a compacted one. Reducing the amount of tillage also promotes the growth of beneficial micro-organisms. Which is exactly what you want as a farmer.
- Reducing pesticide use
Poor-quality soil with a shortage of nutrients and micro-organisms, is filled with chemical fertilisers and pesticides, to prevent insects from attacking crops. Certain chemical fertilisers contain ingredients that plants can’t absorb, leading to soil imbalances that get addressed with more chemicals.
Using slow-acting, organic fertilisers like bone meal or dolomitic lime, adds the necessary nutrients to your soil, and gives the soil time to regain its natural state.
Natural pest control such as Indian runner ducks, barn owls, or cats are also very beneficial to your crops. This approach is known as integrated pest management (IPM), which highlights the introduction of using natural pest control methods instead of a chemical approach.
- Mulch covers
Now that you have transitioned to natural pest control, the next step is to keep the soil covered with mulch covers. This helps to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and improve soil health, reducing the need for chemical fertilisers and pesticides. The latest addition to the market is white and black mulch covers. Having the white side up is used to delay the season and reduce crop stress and ultimately reduce production loss. OBARO has a dedicated team of specialist that are there to assist you with your production and provide advice where needed.
The outcome of this organic approach ultimately means healthier food with more nutrients and a reduced chemical impact on the soil, benefiting future farmers.
Sustainability isn’t solely about caring for the soil, water, or plants. Companies can make small impacts like the gifts they give at events, or the amount of energy consumed by their buildings. OBARO has chosen to take those small steps by installing sensor lights in most spaces to reduce the use of electricity and gifting CONSOL glass bottles to all its guests at this year’s Agri SA Congress.
OBARO’s vision is to be the farmer’s business on every farm. This can only be realised when we collectively take the step towards sustainability, be good stewards of what’s been entrusted to us and leave the land in better shape than how we found it.