When better agricultural practice means better long-term returns for farmers

Written by Kenny Le Roux, FARRE Réunion Modified on the

The old adage “more input = more yield" is no longer valid. Now, we would say "judicious input = productivity preserved in the long term." This does mean we have to eliminate chemical inputs but to optimize their use in a process of whole farm management. Conserving water, soil and biodiversity will ensure long-term economic returns.

Back to basics

 Chemical inputs (pesticides, fertilizers, etc) are expensive. The range of available agrochemical solutions is increasingly limited as many harmful chemicals are now prohibited. It is therefore necessary to find alternatives to these chemicals. Similarly, we must encourage the use of organic inputs for agricultural soils. Overall, this is simply to return to old-fashioned common sense.

Take the example of over-fertilization: what are the consequences?
• The plant does not completely consume this excessThe surplus enters the groundwater or runoff
 • The crop becomes frail and susceptible to attacks by pests and diseases (excess nitrogen)
 • This causes an increase in the number of pesticide treatments necessary to protect the crop
 • Higher labour costs
 • Higher production costs and ultimately, reduced profit margins

Everything is connected in a cultivated agroecosystem: fertilization and crop protection go hand in hand. A well-nourished plant is a healthy plant. 

The use of pesticides as antibiotics is not the only solution

The systematic and regular use of pesticides is not advised. It solves nothing and encourages pest outbreaks. We must focus on preventative measures and biological control methods. Crop observation has a role and it can correctly identify the best remedy. Furthermore, knowledge of the development cycle of pests and diseases is necessary. Chemical intervention should be recommended only as a last resort.

Biodiversity on farms should be promoted by developing the surrounding areas, including flower borders, grass strips, refuge plants and trap plants. We must accept the presence of pests, but below a certain threshold, because it is unrealistic to try to permanently get rid of most pests. The principle is to encourage a return to a sustainable ecological balance. This is the principle of agro-ecology.

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