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Biointensive agriculture

Biointensive agriculture could save the planet

Friday, March 18, 2011 by: Cindy Jones-Shoeman
Tags: biointensive agriculture, food production, health news

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(NewsTarget) Not more than a month or two passes by that people don't hear about an impending global food crisis. Many fear that a global food crisis is just around the corner, and that fear is not unfounded. In addition to a soaring world population and topsoil erosion, water sources are also dwindling, leading to the fact that a food crisis may not be that far off. So what are people to do?

Many people turn to growing their own food and relying on themselves. That's one of the best things to do, but how does a person create a sustainable "farm"? Ecology Action has spent years refining its approach to sustainable agriculture, and the organization focuses on "mini-farms." Its techniques use less water and land but produce more food (in a sustainable environment) than most other techniques. There are eight principles that "Grow Biointensive" incorporates, and all these principles lead to a self-sustaining farming method.

  1. Prepare the soil. The biointensive gardening method advocates a particular method of soil preparation. It involves "double digging" the soil (loosening it to two feet deep), which aids in aeration and retention of water and allows roots to grow as deep as necessary. The beds are raised in a sloping fashion.

  2. Compost. Biointensive gardening requires composting, part of the reason why this method is sustainable.

  3. Plant "intensively." This method utilizes the space that the farmer has. Plants are grown closely together, so close that they almost touch, and they are not grown in typical row fashion.

  4. Utilize companion planting. Companion planting is a method whereby plants that grow well together are planted beside each other, creating an ecosystem of their own. For example, squash and corn are companion plants and grow well together. There are also plants that inhibit each other's growth and should, therefore, not be grown together. Finally, crops should be rotated on a regular basis every growing season.

  5. Employ carbon farming. Carbon farming helps with a farm's sustainability, as a large majority of the mini-farms' crops are grown for their carbon content (that will become compost). For example, corn, rye, and sunflowers are carbon plants.

  6. Utilize calorie farming. Calorie farming requires that the farmer use about one-third of his farming space to grow foods that will fuel the body (and give the most calories per bite). Examples of calorie crops are potatoes and garlic.

  7. Use open-pollinated seeds. A sustainable farm saves its own seeds, and if the seeds come from one's own farm, those seeds are from plants that have adapted to that particular growing environment.

  8. Rely on a "Whole System Farming Method." The biointensive approach requires that farmers commit to using all the principles of the method. If not all the principles are used, the method probably won't work. For example, only by carbon farming can the farmer generate enough materials for a healthy, usable compost. This compost will be used for the next year's garden. And if the farmer fails to follow the soil preparation techniques, the plants may not grow as expected. All of the techniques - used in a "whole system" approach - create the sustainability one's farm needs.

Today, many people fear that the planet's food sources are vanishing. Many people plan to take their future into their own hands, and growing their own garden is one of the best ways to ensure a nourishing tomorrow.

John Jeavons, How to Grow More Vegetables, 7th edition, Ten Speed Press

About the author

Cindy Jones-Shoeman is the author of Last Sunset and a Feature Writer for Academic Writing at Suite101.
Some of Cindy's interests include environmental issues, vegetarian and sustainable lifestyles, music, and reading.

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