Alternative farming is defined as production systems that do not use conventional methods. They aim at following the concept of agro ecology. These king of systems seek sustainable performances while optimising all agro ecosystem resources.
Alternative farming gathers a lot of different systems such as organic farming, sustainable farming, integrated farming, agro forestry, permanent farming etc. Despite their differences, these systems share common values. Their technical itineraries were actually firstly though as way to preserver the environment and more precisely soil and water. The also seek to reduce or suppress the use of chemical and mineral fertilisers. They intend to comply with natural cycles, by using crop rotations, cover crops or no tillage. Thus, these systems try to fit their territories.
Farmers who practice alternative farming are able to ensure a profit and respect the environment. he majority of alternative farming techniques indicate a return of time tested traditional and eco friendly practices.
The ultimate goal of alternative farming are to :
- maintain or improve the natural resource base
- protect the environment
- ensure profitability
- conservation of energy
- increase the farm productivity
- improve food quality, security and safety, and
- create more viable and vibrant socio-economic infrastructure for farm and rural communities
Through decades of science and practice, the following farming practices have been proven office in achieving sustainability through alternative farming:
- Rotating Crops and Embracing Diversity
Planting a variety of crops can have many benefits including healthier soil and improved pest control. Crop diversity practices include inter cropping and complex multi year crop rotations.
- Planting Cover Crops and Perennials
Cover crops such as clover, or hairy vetch are planted during off season times when soil might otherwise be left bare, while perennial crops keep soil covered and maintain living roots in the ground around the year. These crops protect and build soil health by preventing erosion, replenishing soil nutrients and keeping weeds in check, reducing the need for fertilisers and herbicides.
- Reducing or Eliminating Tillage
Traditional plowing (tillage) prepares fields for planting and prevents weed problems but can cause soil loss. No-till or reduced-till methods, which involve inserting seeds directly into undisturbed soil, can reduce erosion and improves soil health.
- Apply Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Arange of methods, including mechanical and biological controls, can be applied systematically to keep pest population under control while minimising the use of chemical pesticides.
- Integrating Livestock and Crops
The industrial farming tends to keep plant and animal production separate, with animals living far from the areas where their food is produced and crops growing far away from abundant manure fertilisers. A growing body of evidence shows that a smart integration of crop and animal production can make farms more efficient and profitable.
- Adopting Agro Forestry Practices
By mixing trees or shrubs into their operations, farmers can provide shade and shelter that protects plants, animals and water resources, while also potentially offering additional income from fruit or nut crops.
- Managing Whole Systems and Landscapes
Sustainable farms create uncultivated or less cultivated areas as integral to the farm. For example, natural vegetation along side streams, or strips of prairie plants within or around crop fields, can help control erosion, reduce nutrient run off and support bees and other pollinators and biodiversity in general.
Alternative farming systems are often diversified, which tend to be more stable and resilient and hence reduce financial risk and provide a hedge against drought, pest infection or other natural factors limiting production.
Diversification can also reduce economic pressures from price increases for pesticides, fertilisers and other inputs, drop in commodity prices, regulatory actions affecting the availability of certain products and pest resistance ot pesticides.
Alternative farming practices can be compatible with smaller or large farms and many different types of machinery. Since, in hilly areas of Uttarakhand, the traditional practices of farming are still alive, it will be very much feasible to adopt alternative farming.