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Unsustainable Farming Practices

One reason why farmers are not as progressive as they should could be traced to unsustainable farming practices. That’s not only true in the Philippines, it is also true in many other countries.

KAINGIN IS BAD

Dave Deppner of Trees for the Future says that slash-and-burn farming(better known as kaingin in the Philippines) is a very unsustainable farming practice. Farmers usually burn the land to get rid of the weeds. This practice does not only contribute to the rapid loss of forests, it also inhibits the regeneration of tree seedlings. The fire also destroys what little organic matter remains in the soil, according to him.

PLANTING THE WRONG TREES

Planting the wrong trees in farms as well as in reforestation projects can also cause disaster. Eucalyptus is one example of a tree that farmers should not plant in their farms, according to Deppner. One of his reports says that every week they receive “requests for help from communities in Central America, the Carribbean, Africa and Asia that are suffering from the long term damage caused by massive eucalyptus plantings. Fields that farmers once cultivated are now ruined.”

Deppner explained that “farmers quickly discovered that these eucalyptus trees are causing problems with both their roots and leaves. Not only do they blanket the ground with their leaves, deterring the growth of other trees and crops but their well-developed lateral root system is extremely greedy, taking all available water and nutrients from their neighboring trees and crops.”

He concluded that eucalyptus trees do not lend themselves to sustainable land management systems.

In their work at the Trees for the Future, Deppners says they encourage communities to plant multipurpose fast growing trees that not only produce useful products within a short time, they also encourage the growth of field crops, vegetables and other vegetation around them. These include many leguminous trees that capture nitrogen from the air and fix them in the soil to nourish other crops. These trees also produce fuelwood as well as leaves for their feeding livestock.

Many of the fast-growing trees have deep tap roots. That is why they can absorb the minerals underground and bring them to the surface via their leaves that eventually drop and decompose, enriching the topsoil that nurtures shallow-rooted cash crops.

Deppner says that cutting down trees is not a bad thing. Trees are an important resource for everyone to use on earth. He stresses, however, that the problem is with people who don’t replace the trees they cut.

INSECTICIDES AND FERTILIZERS

Among the practices that damage the soil is excessive use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Dave says that insecticides and chemical fertilizers are unsustainable, temporary solutions that almost never improve the quality of the soil. He explains that pesticides often kill much of the insects and microlife in soils that are needed for natural processes. He adds that there are, in fact, many beneficial insects that eat many of the problem insects but insecticides kill everything indiscriminately.

He explains that chemical fertilizers cause long term damage, and they are often inadequate in their nutrient content. Soils need rich organic matter in the form of humus, compost, manure, etc. How do fertilizers damage the soil? Deppner says chemical fertilizers cause at least four major problems. First, they kill the beneficial organisms that live in the soil. Chemical fertilizers also cause the soil to become acidic which is often not conducive to plant growth.

Chemical fertilizers also create hardpans in the soil which can form naturally or unnaturally under the soil. This could trap the water which can cause waterlogging and rotting of the roots. Chemical fertilizers can also damage plant health. Deppner explains that sudden large increase in nitrogen levels combined with a lack of trace elements have been known to cause diseases in plants.

Overuse of chemical fertilizers, according to Deppner’s report, inhibits the chemical and physical reactions that transfer trace elements in the plants through the root hairs.

OVERGAZING IS BAD

Overgazing is one big problem in many parts of the world, including the Philippines. Overgrazed lands become barren. But Dave Deppner does not blame the animals. Rather, he blames the management systems that animal raisers use. Rather than continue with the usual practice of letting animals loose in the pasture where they eat everything, they should be raised in confinement. The grass and other fodder should be cut and brought to where the animals are confined.

Well, the above are just some of the unsustainable farming practices many farmers do. It’s about time we do something about them.