Animal welfare is certainly a subject about which most people will have something to say. Most people’s opinions are firmly held and are based on their beliefs, culture and traditions, rather than on factual evidence. The broader community needs to understand that animal welfare is a very complex and multifaceted subject which cannot be reduced to one box.
The SWAN system is composed of soil, water, atmosphere and nutrient components. The best way to show how these integrated and interrelated measures reflect the journey of improving agricultural sustainability is to show a case study of a farm which has become more sustainable over the past five years.
The reality is that adapting agricultural practices when the drought is already upon us is actually too late. Sustainable agriculture should be a way of life.
What I want to discuss is the difference between putting ideas into practice in a manner that just ticks the box and putting ideas into practice in a manner that brings about tangible results.
Nitrogen alone cannot carry the responsibilities of other nutrients in the plant. That is why farmers need to have a balance of all essential plant nutrients in order to archive optimal growth.
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.
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.