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Agroecology: sustainable land use

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March 11, 2017 by Species Ecology

Agroecology: sustainable land use

Viviana Granado

The man begins to assert, as he learns to respect and understand the ground he walks on.” Atahualpa Yupanqui

It is common to consider soil as an inert, lifeless, made only for minerals. But hundreds of species of animals, plants, fungi and bacteria are found inhabiting soil and they play a very important role in the ecological and environmental balance.

The reality we seldom fail to see is desertification is progressing slowly. This process involves the degradation of environment in general and soil degradation in particular due to climate changes but mostly due to human activities. The problem with these degraded soils is a slow recovery and the great effort to reverse this situation.

Our country, Argentina, by its longitudinal and altitude range, presents a variety of climates and soils and therefore a diversity of biological species. It is important to protect and conserve this natural heritage.

But the truth is otherwise:

Argentina in the time of “breadbasket of the world”, performed a comprehensive exploitation, especially in the Pampas region where large scale livestock and crop farms now supplying meats, grains and legumes for the economy. Monoculture plantations primarily soybeans replaced the wild lands and pampas forest was no exception. This resulted huge hectares of native forests been replaced by cash crop monoculture plantations. It is well known to many that the chaco forest (a type of shrubland in South America similar to chaparral in North America) declined and degraded to further extend the agricultural frontier which in turn resulted soil erosion by being exposed to rain and the sun.

A monoculture of plants (as a soya) is an unstable system and by definition is an intensive cultivation of a single species in an area. This agricultural practice now extends in our territory because it possess high economic and easy to harvest time coupled with convenient way of fertilizing or combating pests for human.

Neverthelss, it causes serious environmental problems such as salinization of land under irrigation and fertility loss hence planting the same species year after year depletes nutrients. Furthermore, monoculture practice multiplies the existence of some pests that are adapted to sites where they can find the same food and this results in an increase in the use of chemical pesticides to combat them, often causing soil pollution but also groundwater which people use for drinking and hygiene and also for animals. This contamination also occurs with the excessive and indiscriminate use of herbicides and fertilizers.

What is the solution?
Agroecology seeks to implement sustainable agricultural practices and productive at the same time, using science and appropriate technology. Promoting species biological control, crop rotation, use of microbial pesticides, organic fertilizers, biodiversity preservation, soil and natural resource particularly water conservation. On the other hand, it is necessary to accompany these sustainable practices, with pro-environment laws: control the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, provide financial incentives to farmers engaged agroecology, educate farmers about environmental problems that can arise and how to diminish or mitigate, taxing those who use (abuse) agrochemicals therefore reducing the use of pesticides and to promote sustainable crops.

To think:
Our region of Patagonia, is semiarid environment. It is windy and exhibit highly sensitive water resources. Land degradation and desertification is due to the strong winds that dominate the west and cause blowing up the thin layer of fertile lands.

However it is possible to carry out a new restoration project in the Patagonia region in order to reverse the trend of desertification that are caused by man made intervention in the form of monoculture plantations.

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