It is going to take considerable effort from researchers, consultants and farmers, and a commitment to developing farm systems which better mimic nature, but I am hopeful for the future of sustainable agriculture in South Africa.
The benefits of multispecies pasture are not only limited to the benefits mentioned in this blog, they are far greater. I have isolated these ones because they are the most pertinent and directly relate to farm profitability.
Look out for the Trace & Save logo on First Choice UHT-milk to see how easy it is to trace the impact of this milk product on the environment
Approaching agriculture in new ways requires new perspectives on how to view things. One of the main differences between conventional and sustainable agriculture is the relative reliance on external inputs.
The black maize beetle is a pest to many of the pasture grasses planted on Eastern Cape dairy farms. Two of the most prominent grasses which are favoured by these beetles are ryegrass and kikuyu.
Farmers that include lucerne as part of their pasture mixtures will benefit from free nitrogen both from the atmosphere and from an enhanced mineralisation rate that will be stimulated by diverse pastures. The free nitrogen will help reduce fertiliser costs and improve farm efficiency.
These two very simple visual assessments can give farmers an idea of how good the structure of the soil is on their farms. They are also a good demonstration of the benefits of soil carbon and how carbon contributes to well aggregated soil.
The problem with change is that it is often very challenging. The usual, common and standard way of doing things is comfortable and known, but it very seldom brings about progress.
An upside down way of thinking, as with regenerative agriculture, is to start with the soil. Read this blog to find out more about this upside down thinking.
There are many farmers out there who are really attempting to reduce their environmental impacts and provide agricultural produce which supports a sustainable future.