Farmed areas are absolutely vital for the sustainability of animals, plants and humans alike, providing both habitat and food, they keep the ecosystem ticking over and help us to maintain life for all. However, there are, undoubtedly, areas of concern surrounding the environmental sustainability of certain farming practices.
Although farming can actually help and restore certain habitats and improve soil health and quality, in certain instances, farming can actually represent a huge threat to animals and vital ecosystems.
Around 50% of the world’s land which is suitable for habitation has already been converted for the use of farming, representing around 38% of the globe’s entire land area. These areas are still expanding too, with developing countries converting increasing amounts of land to meet an increased demand for food.
A continued loss of habitat threatens many diverse and already endangered species, making the need for sustainable methods even more necessary.
Pollution and climate change also represent another major issue when it comes to farming. The use of pesticides and dangerous chemicals has seen a dramatic increase since their first use in the 1950s which has had a massive impact on the adjacent lands and on the ecosystem.
There is also an issue surrounding agricultural equipment. According to the IPCC Climate Change 2007 report, agricultural practices account for around 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Although some of these come from livestock, fertilisers and manure management, ploughing is also a major issue. In poorer countries in especially, where equipment is often old and outdated, these issues are further compounded. Despite economic poor global economic conditions, the agricultural sector continues to expand, however there is a dire need for better, more sustainable agricultural machinery.
Another notable issue surrounding agriculture and the affect it has on the environment is the wastage and consumption of water. Something that we perhaps take for granted here in the UK, it is estimated that the agricultural sector consumes a massive 70% of the world’s freshwater supplies, equating to over 2,500 trillion litres of water every year, 60% of which is wasted, or ‘unsustainable’.
Because of all this, many institutions have placed targets concerning agricultural environmental sustainability. Investments in new farming equipment and more education combined with innovation surrounding new scientific techniques have all gone some way to improving the problem.