When it comes to modern farming methods, the mere mention of GM crops will set a lot of hackles rising. So much so that in June 2018, the German drug company Bayer took over Monsanto and will drop the name in order to distance itself from the negative publicity the name produces.
As people worry far more about the provenance of their food and animal welfare, sales of organic food and drink in the UK have reached record levels, and you’d be forgiven for falling into the assumption that the old ways of farming are the best ways. But is this necessarily true? In some cases, yes.
In her book, The Soil Will Save Us, journalist and writer Kristin Ohlson argues that modern industrial agriculture has been responsible for the loss of 80% of the carbon in the world’s soil. She explains: “Plants take carbon dioxide out of the air. They convert that into a carbon fuel for themselves, but they share 40% of that carbon fuel with the soil microorganisms. The soil microorganisms take that carbon fuel, and they eat it and they grow with it and they make a glue with it to create habitat down in the soil.” She calls for a return to no-till farming as, with minimal disruption, the microorganisms will remain undisturbed which is healthier for the plants and also for the planet as it removes a lot of carbon from the air.
One American farmer, Gabe Brown, has been practising no-till farming for over 25 years. He thinks of his farm in terms of an entire ecosystem, and farms a diversity of crops and animals without the use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and fungicides. He reports that his yields are above average in the area, and his production costs are lower.
Many organisations are now promoting a combination of old and new farming methods. Agroecology offers a healthy and sustainable way of food production which is gaining traction worldwide. And permaculture is a way of using diverse crops as a way of increasing biological diversity and decreasing dependence on chemicals. In poor countries that depend on subsistence farming, permaculture is used as a way of increasing nutrition and the health of the local population.
Other old school farming methods are proving more beneficial than the modern, resource-heavy ones. In California, some farmers are going back to ‘dry farming’, a method by which they trap moisture into the soil during the rainy season which sustains crops in the dry season without the need to resort to expensive and increasingly unsustainable irrigation.
As the world’s population grows, farmers need to produce more and more food with the same, or fewer, resources. Technology will play a huge part in improving agricultural yields, with the prospect of human involvement disappearing altogether.
Even more revolutionary methods of growing food are being developed. Hydroponics and aquaponics are gaining popularity, especially in cities where space is limited. Whilst these methods are energy intensive – mainly because of the need for constant artificial lighting – they are efficient and provide increased yields of healthy crops.
One thing is certain, the future of farming is grabbing the attention of entrepreneurs who are set to revolutionise the industry still further. New start-ups are using technology to improve the health and care of plants and animals, as well as finding ways of reducing costs and resources in their production.
These are exciting times for the farming industry.
Future farming will, of course, affect the kind of farm signs you’ll be required to use. If you need to replace signage to ensure your farm is both safe and legal, click here to see what we have available.