Should you change your farming model?

Published: 15 July 2020

When deciding whether it would be to your advantage to change your farming model, it is probably helpful to briefly consider some of the factors that impact current and future farming practices. You need to determine why you might change your model and, if yes, to what exactly. Agriculture worldwide is succeeding in terms of production; however, this is not the case for sustainability. The production success, utilising conventional farming methodology, is harming the environment and public health and is not sustainable in the long term. Excess use of pesticides has actually caused a plague of resistant weeds, fertiliser runoff produces dead aquatic zones and monoculture systems diminish soil health.

Across the world government support for agriculture is increasingly moving towards those activities which nurture the environment and, if your farm business is not already incorporating practices that facilitate environmental improvement leading to increased productivity.

Perhaps now is the time to decide whether you have the right farm model or not.

Farming practices conventionally are either extensive or intensive. Intensive farming increases, e.g. the crop yield through the substantial use of pesticides, fertilisers and machinery. It utilises considerable investment and is more labour intensive. Conversely, extensive farming uses large areas of land, with much lower inputs compared with intensive systems. Intensive farming gives high production per unit of land whilst extensive farming is the opposite in that production per unit area is low.

However, Large Scale Farming (LSF) can be extensive in terms of the area farmed and also intensive, profitable and sustainable provided the relevant farming practices are implemented. Sustainable here refers to both agriculture and the environment. Agriculture improves the economy through greater production whilst at the same time protecting the environment. Activities such as minimising pollution, improving and maintaining healthy soil, efficient water management and fostering biodiversity enhance the environment, which provides natural systems for increased farm production.

There are many different agricultural practices that contribute to sustainability. Soil is the basis of all farm production and the use of techniques such as minimum tillage, direct seeding, controlled traffic farming, crop rotation and cover crops all help to improve and maintain your main farm asset. The implementation, where appropriate, of variety diversification, agroforestry, organic farming, integrated pest management, livestock and crop integration and Total Farm Area Management (TFAM includes the uncultivated areas in the management of the total area of your farm), can lead to increased productivity and profitability. Profit optimisation not maximisation, within the context of sustainability through not over exploiting your farm resources as is the case with profit maximisation, should be your goal. The resulting long-term sustainability will mean that you are more likely to have a farm business that both nurtures the environment and provides you with a good return on your investment for many years.

FGM International has extensive successful experience of sustainable farm resource development and management incorporating all the various techniques above. FGM is a world leader in all aspects of Large Scale Farming including for example, initial feasibility studies, the development of business plans with the client, impact assessment, implementation of the business plan and ongoing farm business management. We can assist you to consider whether and how you need to change your farming model. Contact us to discover how we may work together to develop the opportunities available to you.

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