How to embrace natural farming on your farm

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How to embrace natural farming on your farm

If you are looking to reduce your impact on the environment as a farmer, you could look into natural farming as an alternative method. It was started in the 1930s by Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese plant biologist.

Natural farming is the practice of building a communion between a farmer and nature, which includes no-till farming, no chemical fertilisers or chemical compost and eliminating weeds without herbicide. It may sound difficult but below are some steps you can take to embrace natural farming on your farm.


Put no-till farming into practice

No-till farming does not require much equipment, aside from some of the smaller items on offer from companies such as Radium. Equipment should be used if you have a large acreage which cannot be handled by manual tilling.

No-till farming is exactly as the name describes: farming without the need to till the land. It is based on the belief that there are living things within the soil such as microbes and insects, which will be disturbed and destroyed when the soil is tilled. It is these natural organisms which contribute to the fertility of the soil, and so tilling the soil creates conditions where using harmful chemicals become a necessity. No-till farming also helps decrease the amount of carbon you release into the atmosphere, as you will be using fewer pieces of equipment for the process.


Stop using herbicides and pesticides

Masanobu Fukuoka believed that, ‘If nature is left to itself, fertility increases’, and natural farming follows this belief by not using herbicides or fertiliser in its practices. The natural farming method embraces the role that insects and weeds play in the farming process.  

This does not mean that you should never remove weeds or pests but rather that you should do so in a natural manner. You could look at crop rotation to discourage pests which target one type of crop, utilising cover crops to suppress weeds or using beneficial insects which target pests (such as ladybirds which eat aphids). These natural methods are friendlier to the environment and will save you money as you will not be using expensive herbicides or pesticides.


Let nature decide what grows

Rather than implementing your own plans on your land or forcing crops to grow in a climate they are not naturally suited to, let nature show you what should grow where. Planting crops that are suited to your climate will help with water conservation as well.

The beliefs of natural farmers are that nature knows what should grow where, and so you should not try to force crops to grow in a climate that is not natural to them. This is an especially effective practice for farmers in drought-stricken areas, as their crops will be more suited to the region and thus will be able to flourish.


Crop rotation

Crop rotation is a tried and tested manner of planting which is proven to keep the soil healthy and nutritious. With crop rotation, you replenish the soil with the previous crop, preparing the soil for the upcoming crop.

An example is planting row crops after planting grain crops, This will help to sustain and renew the nutrients and salts from the soil that were absorbed by the previous crop cycle. It is also an effective manner to reduce pests and disease in your fields, as certain pests prefer certain plants. Rotating the crops will also eliminate the need to use pesticides and herbicides.


Natural animal raising

If you have both livestock and crops on your farm, you can use the animals to fight soil erosion by allowing them to graze on pastures naturally. This is much healthier for the animals too, as they will not be confined to a small area.

Allowing animals to graze in pastures can help to eliminate soil erosion as well as replenish the health of the soil by the growth of pasture grass. You will also find that the carbon emissions from the soil are reduced, and plant growth and diversity are improved. Allowing animals to graze freely also contributes to conserving natural habitats.


Is natural farming realistic?

Some farmers do not believe in the process of natural farming, as it takes time to see results. However, studies have shown that industrial farming is no longer feasible and the myth that we need industrial farming has been debunked.

Natural farming is fast gaining traction in the agricultural industry. Many farmers have realised that the only way to feed our planet sustainably is to find ways of farming that are small scale  local or regional, offer biodiversity, are not reliant on chemical inputs and are based on local and seasonal growing and consumer habits. This is what natural farming offers, when followed correctly and done with passion.

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