Statement on sustainable farming for a plant-based food system

Plant-Based Health Professionals UK call for a rapid, global transition to a plant-based food system. This will not only serve to improve human health but is necessary to prevent further destruction of the planet and to start healing the Earth’s soil, lands, atmosphere, sea, biodiversity and wildlife habitats. Intensive and extensive animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined and is a major driver of climate change, water pollution, watersheds and land degradation, flooding, loss of wildlife and biodiversity, deforestation and ocean destruction. Our current predominate tillage-based crop agriculture is also not fit for purpose and is causing widespread soil and environmental degradation. This has led to higher production costs, lower farm productivity and profit, sub-optimal yield ceilings, poor efficiency and resilience and is not climate-smart. It has also led to dysfunctional ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, degraded ecosystem services such as water, carbon, nutrient cycles, suboptimal water provisioning and regulatory water services with high environmental costs to society and nutritionally lower quality food.

The solutions to all these problems are provided by no-till Conservation Agriculture, which is an ecosystem approach to regenerative and sustainable agriculture based upon the context specific application of three interlinked principles of ecological sustainability and resilience, namely:

Principle 1

Continuous no or minimum mechanical soil disturbance by seeding or planting directly into untilled soil and no-till weeding.

 

Principle 2

Maintaining permanent biomass mulch cover on the soil surface using crop biomass stubbles and cover crops to protect and feed soil life.

 

Principle 3

Diversification of species — both annuals & perennials – with rotations, sequences and associations.

 

These universally applicable core principles and practices go hand in hand with other complementary Good Agricultural Practices, including integrated crop, soil, nutrient, water, pest and  energy management. Conservation Agriculture is a combination of resource conserving practices simultaneously creating synergies between them to regenerate soil and landscape health and functions to optimise sustainable production.

Conservation Agriculture does not require any inputs from farmed animals as the healthy soil and its components are self-sustaining without the need for animal grazing and manure. It also requires much reduced inputs of chemicals and fossil fuel than tillage-based agriculture and it is entirely possible to practice within organic farming systems. Conservation Agriculture offers many productivity, economic, environmental and social benefits including: higher and stable production and profit, control of run-off, erosion and land degradation, greater quantities of clean water, enhanced climate change adaptability and mitigation, improved water cycling and reduced risks of flooding, and rehabilitation of degraded lands, biodiversity and ecosystem functions.

To learn more about Conservation Agriculture you can watch this webinar delivered by Professor Amir Kassam on 24th June 2020.

Professor Amir Kassam is Visiting Professor in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, UK. For many years he has been involved in the global transformation of the conventional degrading tillage agriculture to sustainable agriculture based on no-till Conservation Agriculture. He is the Moderator of the Global Conservation Agriculture Community of Practice (CA-CoP) Platform and has worked with a number of international and national organisations around the world on sustainable agriculture. He has published widely on the science, practice and  benefits of Conservation Agriculture, which is now practiced by smallholders and larger-scale farmers in all land-based agroecologies on more than 180 million hectares of global cropland. The spread of Conservation Agriculture is equally divided between the Global North and the Global South, and it is expanding worldwide at an annual rate of some 10 million hectares.

Amir was awarded the OBE in 2005 for services to tropical agriculture and to rural development. Born in Zanzibar, Amir has a BSc (Hons) in Agricultural Science and a PhD in Agricultural Ecology from the University of Reading, and an MS in Irrigation Science from the University of California, Davis. Amir is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, and former chair of the Tropical Agriculture Association UK and of the Aga Khan Foundation (UK). He is a former Senior Agricultural Research Officer in the CGIAR Technical Advisory Committee Secretariat at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Deputy Director General (Programme) of the West Africa Rice Development Association, Ivory Coast.

Anyone wishing to subscribe to the Global CA-CoP platform should contact Amir at: amirkassam786@googlemail.com