Re: Sustainable Agriculture

Stanley G Freyenberger wrote:
> Cyrus, you have a good question. First of all, I do not see sustainable
> agriculture as a practice or a point to be arrived at.  SA for me is the
> process of moving towards sustainability.  "how to know if a system
> (no-till) is sustainable?" What are we trying to sustain, the system or
> the effect that the system has on profitability, environment and quality
> of life (our goal)?  If SA is a process of moving towards sustainability,
> we are really talking about a system of decision-making, and evaluating the
> effect that tools (no-till) have on our goal (not just a sustainable
> future). As you said there are trade-offs, on the posative side, no- till
> conserves water and maintains ground cover to reduce erosion, on the
> negative side it has repeated herbicide application, raising the risk of
> pesticide runnoff or leaching.  I like the Holistic Management guidelines
> for evaluating if a practice is sustainable or not. (For further
> information there, see the Center for Holistic Management web page:
> <http:\\www.igc.org\holisticmanagement>.
> I will not go through their seven testing questions, but your action,
> no-till will likely pass some testing questions and will likely fail
> others. Finally having gone though these questions you
> will know what effect your action will have.  It is then your decision
> to go ahead or reject the action or activity this year.  If the action
> passes your requirements move forward.  But having decided to go ahead
> with an action, monitoring is needed to see that you continue to move
> towards your goal. Conditions change and what may have been a correct
> decision at one point and time may no longer be the best.
> I do not want to drag this out, I hate long postings.  But you should get
> the jist of what I am presenting.  The practice is only a tool.
> Sustainability is something that we will forever be moving towards in
> this ever changing world.
> For me, the dilema right now is that we are beginning to develop a
> networking directory of farmers using "sustainable" practice.  Do we
> exclude the chemical no-till farmer and the practices associated?  I lean
> towards including them.  No they do not pass all of my tests, but they,
> as well as me, are on the road to sustainability as they endeavor to
> reduce erosion and keep ground cover.
> Let us build bridges, not roadblocks to the future.
> Stan Freyenberger
> Research Assistant
> Dept of Ag Econ, KSU
> Manhattan, KS  66506
> On Thu, 5 Jun 1997, Cyrus Abivardi wrote:
> > June 5, 1997
> >
> > Dear Colleagues,
> >
> > Although the urgent need for a sustainable agriculture is well documented,
> > criteria (and indicators) for sustainability have not been well
> > established.
> >
> > Since sustainability is defined a posteriori, THE QUESTION IS how can we
> > know that an agricultural system (for instance no-tillage agriculture with
> > numerous positive/negative points) is sustainable?
> >
> > I would appreciate it very much if you could participate in this discussion!
> >
> > Many thanks in advance,
> >
> > Cyrus
> >
> >
> >
Howdy folks,
	I also adhere to the concept of a dynamic definition of sustainable,
but I strongly disagree that no-till burn down should ever be an
allowable practice in developing or undertaking this endeavor. I have
observed burndown no-till and am of the distinct opinion that it will
never pass any of the tests of sustainability including the often
exagerrated claims of soil savings. A field that has no cover from
August through May is a senseless waste of solar input and an easy
target for soil loss. There are a myriad of methods that save soil that
are compatible with the natural functioning of ecosystems. There are
hundreds of relatively low slope no-till fields in my region that have
one to two feet deep rills. No-till  often turns into no-management
which is most fatal disease to family farming. Runoff remains high and
infiltration is low  when micro and macro soil invertebrate populations
are depleted. A minimal amount of pesticide laced trash doesn't appear
to make a difference. I feel no-till is only a method by which
agribusiness could tout at least one other "potential " benefit other
than high yields. In reality it appears that no-till is much less of an
advantage sustainably or environmentally than it is a PR gimmick and
primarily just another  technique for reducing labor and equipment costs
for agribusiness and increasing and institutionalizing the need for
dispensing  millions of tons more of substances that are designed for
the distinct purpose of interrupting  life processes. I hope that we
would concentrate on and show preference to production methods which
also focus on  local and regional ecosystem viability, a healthy
nutritious product and a product that your neighbors would purchase and
feed to their family.

Rich Molini
Indiana Chapter OCIA
Atlanta, Indiana

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