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Why should I use sustainable agriculture principles and processes?

It's a choice. We think about aspects of the business where there is risk, and aspects where different management might make the business more satisfying and last longer.

  • You prefer take the medium and long term view, because a sustainable agricultural enterprise lasts longer than that.
  • By working with and enhancing soil processes, productivity will rise and stay more consistent taken across several years. It will not vary as much.
  • The business becomes more resilient to shocks, such as sharp rises in fertiliser prices.
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Does improving soil health make the farm more productive? Is it economic?

Yes. A recent study by the Soil Health Institute found very positive results on farms using soil health principles in cotton farming. Amomg the conclusions were:

  • All farmers interviewed reported increased cotton yield that averaged 134 lb/acre from using a soil health management system.
  • Based on the information provided by these farmers, it cost an average of $63/acre less to grow cotton using a soil health management system.

The full document is available here.

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What are natural capital and ecosystem services?

Its confusing when you first meet these terms. In order to clarify them, let's start with natural capital. Natural capital refers to the stock of renewable and non-renewable resources (e.g. plants, animals, air, water, soils, minerals, geology, climate) that combine to yield a flow of benefits to people.

There are stocks, and flows. Natural capital is best understood as the stock of renewable and non-renewable resources.

Ecosystem services are the flow of benefits to people, and valued by them. They are often split into types, for convenience

  • provisioning services: food, fibre, fresh water, biochemical, genetic resources often for pharmaceuticals
  • regulating services: climate, water purification and slowed release, pollination, erosion control, disease and pest management in crops
  • cultural services: religious, spiritual, historical, aesthetic, recreational, educational, heritage, inspiration
  • supporting services: photosynthesis, soil formation, plant production, water and nutrient cycling. Supporting services underpin and enable all the other services.

Those examples are largely the ones commonly used. They are just a starting point. For example, water flow regulation is critical around river transport. And river transport plays a key role in many countries around the world, from the transport of people and goods in small long boats in the upper Mekong River, to the transport of oil and coal in the Mississippi River, and many places in between.

Bringing it down to your property level requires thought and perhaps some assistance. Just remember that the natural capital is the stock, and the ecosystem services are the flows.

Most of the time, you will be interested in flows. If you have a quarry, you will quickly see that there is stock in geological form... the rock or hill, and flows are what you sell.

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Will there be more questions?

Yes. When the opportunity arises to clarify some uncertainty about us, after a question on the contact page, the question and answer will appear here.

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