Sustainable agriculture : how to sustain a production system in a changing environment
Sommaire de l'article
During the past 10-15 years, sustainable agriculture has progressed from a focus primarily on a low-input, organic farming approach with a major emphasis on small fruit or vegetable production farms, often described as Low Input Sustainable Agriculture, to the current situation where sustainability is an important part of mainstream animal and plant production units. The US Department of Agriculture programmes cover a broad range of activities, including conserving the natural resource base, enhancing environmental duality, and sustaining productivity of the nation's farms. The use of Geographic Information Systems technology to direct application of fertilisers, pesticides, and herbicides is one example of a rapidly emerging technology that can reduce use of external inputs, protect the agricultural environment, and improve economic returns. This Geographic Information Systems technology also is being used to localise animal pest and disease problems, assist in regulatory or control measures, and identify high risk areas that might need different management systems or should be avoided as sites for animal production. Use of intensive grazing systems also has increased markedly over the past 5-6 years. These systems will allow longer grazing seasons in southern parts of the USA, provide more efficient use of the forages being produced and reduce labour costs in the typical dairy operation. Major animal and plant production agriculture-oriented programmes at the US Department of Agriculture focus on integrated production systems, use of Integrated Pest Management techniques, and development of alternative methods to manage pests and diseases that reduce or avoid the use of drugs and chemicals. The US Department of Agriculture has a programme for sustainable agriculture, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education programme, which emphasises alternative approaches for animal and plant production systems.