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APPLYING THE PRINCIPLES OF
SUSTAINABLE FARMING
FUNDAMENTALS OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE
Susicincclc |crminv mccis cntircnmcnicl. cccncmic. cn! sccicl ccjcciitcs simulicnccuslu. |ntircnmcnicllu scun!
cvriculiurc is nciurc-ccsc! rci|cr i|cn |ccicru-ccsc!. |ccncmic susicincciliiu !cpcn!s cn prc|iicclc cnicrpriscs.
scun! |incncicl plcnninv. prccciitc mcr|ciinv. cn! ris| mcncvcmcni. Sccicl susicincciliiu rcsulis |rcm mc|inv
!ccisicns uii| i|c |crm |cmilus cn! i|c lcrvcr ccmmuniius ucliiu c| li|c cs c tcluc cn! c vccl. 1|is puclicciicn
!iscusscs i|c principlcs c| cntircnmcnicl. cccncmic. cn! sccicl susicincciliiu. cn! prcti!cs prcciiccl cxcmplcs c|
|cu ic cpplu i|cm cn i|c |crm.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction .................................................. 1
Environmental Sustainability........................ 2
Economic Sustainability ............................... 6
Planning and Decision Making .................... 7
Applying the Principles ................................ 8
Composts, Manures, and Fertilizers ........... 10
Weed Management .................................... 11
Insect Pest Management ............................ 12
Plant Disease Management ........................ 13
Examples of Successful Transitions ........... 13
Summary ..................................................... 15
References.................................................. 15
Resources ................................................... 16
INTRODUCTION
By Prcston Su!!ivan
NCAT Agricu!turc Sccia!ist
May 2003
Farning suslainabIy noans groving crops
and IivoslocI in vays llal nool llroo ob|oclivos
sinuIlanoousIy
Economic roIit
Socia! bcncIits to thc Iarm Iami!y and
thc community
Environmcnta! conscrvation
SuslainabIo agricuI-
luro doponds on a
vloIo-syslon ap-
proacl vloso ovoraII
goaI is llo conlinuing
loaIll of llo Iand and
poopIo. Tloroforo il
conconlralos on Iong-
lorn soIulions lo prob-
Ions insload of slorl-
lorn lroalnonl of
synplons.
//AIILYING THE IRINCIILES OF SISTAINABLE FARMING IAGE 2
SuslainabIo farning is noro llan a sol of ido-
aIislic principIos or a I inilod s ol of praclicos.
SuslainabiIily can bo obsorvod and noasurod
indicalors llal a farn or ruraI connunily is
aclioving llo llroo ob|oclivos of suslainabiIily
incIudo
ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY
Tlo faniIy savings or nol vorll is con-
sislonlIy going up
Tlo faniIy dobl is consislonlIy going dovn
Tlo farn onlorprisos aro consislonlIy
profilabIo fron yoar lo yoar
Iurclaso of off-farn food and forliIizor is
docroasing
RoIianco on govornnonl paynonls is do-
croasing
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY
Tlo farn supporls ollor businossos and
faniIios in llo connunily
DoIIars circuIalo villin llo IocaI oconony
Tlo nunbor of ruraI faniIios is going up
or loIding sloady
Young poopIo laIo ovor lloir paronls'
farns and conlinuo farning
CoIIogo gradualos rolurn lo llo connu-
nily aflor gradualion
ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY
Tloro is no baro ground
CIoan valor fIovs in llo farn's dilclos and
slroans
WiIdIifo is abundanl
Fisl aro proIific in slroans llal fIov
llrougl llo farn
Tlo farn Iandscapo is divorso in vogola-
lion
Tloso llroo ob|oclivos aro nanagod noro as
a singIo unil, ovon llougl vo nusl discuss llon
soparaloIy. Tlo llroo ob|oclivos ovorIap con-
slanlIy. For oxanpIo, ocononic docisions affocl
llo IocaI connunilybuying fron oul of slalo
insload of fron a IocaI suppIior. EnvironnonlaI
docisions affocl llo ocononicaIIoving soiI oro-
sion incroasos llo nood for irrigalion and noro
forliIizor. Eacl of lloso ob|oclivos is furllor ox-
aninod boIov.
ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY
SuslainabIo agricuIluro can bo viovod as oco-
syslon nanagononl of conpIox inloraclions
anong soiI, valor, pIanls, aninaIs, cIinalo, and
poopIo. Tlo goaI is lo inlogralo aII lloso faclors
inlo a produclion syslon llal is approprialo for
llo onvironnonl, llo poopIo, and llo ocononic
condilions vloro llo farn is Iocalod.
Farns bocono and slay onvironnonlaIIy sus-
lainabIo by inilaling naluraI syslonscroaling
a farn Iandscapo llal ninics as cIosoIy as pos-
sibIo llo conpIoxily of loaIlly ocosyslons. Na-
luro londs lo funclion in cycIos, so llal vaslo
fron ono procoss or syslon boconos inpul for
anollor. InduslriaI agricuIluro, in conlrasl, londs
lo funclion in a Iinoar faslion siniIar lo a fac-
lory inpuls go in ono ond, and producls and
vaslo cono oul llo ollor. Tlo vaslos of indus-
lriaI agricuIluro non-poinl-sourco poIIulion) in-
cIudo suspondod soiI, nilralos, and plosplalos
in slroan valor, and nilralos and poslicidos in
ground valor. Il is a proniso of suslainabIo ag-
ricuIluro llal a farn is a naluro-basod syslon,
nol a faclory.
Tlo sinpIor vo lry lo naIo agricuIluro, llo
noro vuInorabIo vo bocono lo naluraI disaslors
and narIolpIaco clangos. Wlon vo lry lo pro-
duco a singIo producl sucl as vloal, corn, or
soyboans vo aro laIing on lugo risI. If insload
vo divorsify crops and inlogralo pIanl and ani-
naI agricuIluro, ovorload viII bo sproad ovor
sovoraI onlorprisos, roducing risI and incroasing
profil. TabIo 1 offors sono conparisons bolvoon
lvo nodoIs of agricuIlurofarning as an indus-
lriaI faclory and farning as a bioIogicaI syslon.
0omper|son of the |ndustr|e| end
|o|og|ce| Hode|s of Agr|cu|ture
lrduslr|a| rode| 6|o|og|ca| rode|
Erergv |rlers|ve lrlorral|or |rlers|ve
L|rear process Cvc||ca| process
Farr as laclorv Farr as ecosvsler
Erlerpr|se separal|or Erlerpr|se |rlegral|or
S|rg|e erlerpr|se Varv erlerpr|ses
Vorocu|lure 0|vers|lv ol p|arls ard ar|ra|s
LoW-va|ue producls l|g|er-va|ue producls
S|rg|e-use eou|prerl Vu|l|p|e-use eou|prerl
Pass|ve rar|el|rg Acl|ve rar|el|rg
TABLE 1
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IAGE 3 //AIILYING THE IRINCIILES OF SISTAINABLE FARMING
Figure 1. Energy Flow. Source: Sullivan, 1999.
Illustration by Janet Bachmann.
FARM AS ECOSYSTEM
On any farn, four na|or ocosyslon procossos aro al vorI llal, if funclioning proporIy, viII con-
sorvo llo soiI and valor rosourcos and ovonluaIIy roduco llo ovoraII oporaling cosls. Tloso naluraI
procossosonorgy fIov, valor and ninoraI cycIos, and ocosyslon dynanicsaro obsorvabIo and
nanagoabIo.
Encrgy I!ow is llo non-cycIicaI pall of soIar onorgy sunIigll) inlo and llrougl any bioIogicaI
syslon Figuro 1). Tlo naluraI vorId runs on sunIigll. Our nanagononl docisions affocl lov nucl
of il is caplurod and pul lo good uso on llo farn Savory and BullorfioId, 1999). Enorgy fIov bogins
vlon sunIigll is convorlod inlo pIanl grovll, and conlinuos vlon aninaIs consuno pIanls, vlon
prodalor aninaIs consuno proy, and vlon nicroorganisns doconposo doad pIanls and aninaIs.
Sono onorgy is Iosl as loal al ovory lransfor poinl in llo food clain. On llo farn, onorgy capluro is
onlancod by naxinizingboll in spaco and in linollo Ioaf aroa avaiIabIo for plolosynllosis, and
by officionlIy cycIing llo slorod soIar onorgy llrougl llo food clain. Off-soason covor crops, poron-
niaI vogolalion, and inlorcropping aro anong llo looIs for capluring noro soIar onorgy. Capluring
sunIigll and convorling il lo doIIars is llo originaI sourco of aII voaIll.
An offoclivo watcr cyc!c is lypifiod by
no soiI orosion, fasl valor onlry inlo llo soiI, and
llo soiI's capacily lo sloro Iargo anounls of
valor Figuro 2). Slroans fIov yoar-round fron
llo sIov roIoaso of valor slorod in llo soiI. Tlo
valor cycIo is inprovod by nanagononl
docisions llal add lo or nainlain llo
groundcovor porconlago and soiI organic nallor
IovoIsllo goaI is lo gol as nucl valor as
possibIo inlo llo soiI during oacl rainfaII. A
surfaco nuIcl Iayor spoods valor inlaIo vliIo
roducing ovaporalion and prolocling llo soiI
fron orosion. Mininizing or oIininaling liIIago,
groving ligl-rosiduo crops and covor crops, and
adding conposl or nanuro lo llo soiI nainlains
groundcovor and buiIds organic nallor.
Managononl of soiI organic nallor is ospociaIIy
inporlanl in rov cropping. Ono roconl sludy
Hudson, 1994) slovod llal raising llo
porconlago of organic nallor fron 1 lo 2 in
sandy soiI incroasod llo avaiIabIo valor conlonl
of llal soiI by 6O fron 5 of lolaI soiI voIuno
lo 8). Sucl an inprovononl in a soiI's
valor-loIding capacily viII lavo a bonoficiaI of-
focl on crop grovll, ospociaIIy during drougll
poriods.
Tlo rosuIls of an offoclivo valor cycIo aro Iov
surfaco runoff, Iov soiI surfaco ovaporalion, Iov
drougll incidonco, Iov fIood incidonco, ligl
lranspiralion by pIanls, and ligl soopago of va-
lor lo undorground rosorvoirs Savory and
BullorfioId, 1999).
//AIILYING THE IRINCIILES OF SISTAINABLE FARMING IAGE 4
Figure 2. Water Cycle. Source: Federal Interagency Stream
Restoration Working Group, 2001.
A voII-funclioning mincra! cyc!cllo novononl of nulrionls fron llo soiI llrougl llo crops
and aninaIs and bacI lo llo soiInoans Ioss nood for forliIizor and food fron off llo farn Figuro 3).
In naluro, ninoraIs noodod for pIanl and aninaI grovll aro conlinuousIy rocycIod villin llo oco-
syslon vill vory IillIo vaslo and no nood for addod forliIizor. IIlinaloIy, lo bo suslainabIo, vo nood
lo find vays lo uso llo naluraI ninoraI cycIo lo nininizo our off-farn purclaso of ninoraIs. Condi-
lions and praclicos llal inlibil llo naluraI ninoraI cycIoorosion, nulrionl Ioacling, organic nallor
dopIolion, soIIing lay or grain off llo farnlond lo roduco llo farn's suslainabiIily. Iraclicos llal
onlanco llo ninoraI cycIo incIudo on-farn fooding of IivoslocI, carofuI nanagononl of nanuro and
crop rosiduos, uso of calcl crops lo roduco nulrionl Ioacling Iossos, and praclicos llal provonl oro-
sion.
IAGE 5 //AIILYING THE IRINCIILES OF SISTAINABLE FARMING
An offoclivo ccosystcm dynamic is indicalod by a li gl divorsily of pIanls and aninaIs boll
abovo and boIov ground. Divorsily rofors nol onIylo nunbors of spocios, bul aIso lo gonolic divor-
sily villin spocios and lo a broad ago slrucluro in oacl popuIalion. Groalor divorsily producos groalor
slabiIily villin llo syslon and nininizos posl probIons. Our cloicos of praclicos and looIs diroclIy
affocl llo IovoI of biodivorsily vo lavo on llo farn TabIo 2).
Tlo firsl slop lovard incroasing biodivorsily on llo farn is crop rolalion, vlicl loIps broaI vood
and posl Iifo cycIos and providos conpIononlary forliIizalion anong llo crops in llo pIanling so-
quonco. Advancing fron rolalion lo slrip inlorcrops brings a liglor IovoI of biodivorsily and in-
croasos sunIigll capluro. Slrip inlorcropping of corn and soyboans or collon and aIfaIfa aro lvo
oxanpIos. Bordors, vindbroaIs, and spociaI pIanlings for naluraI ononio s of posls provido labilal
for bonoficiaI organisns, furllor incroasing biodivorsily and slabiIily. Tlo addilion of approprialo
poronniaI crops, slrubs, and lroos lo llo farnscapo onlancos oco syslon dynanics sliII furllor. For
noro infornalion on praclicos llal incroaso biodivorsily, roquosl llo ATTRA pubIicalions Avrc|crcsiru
Otcrticu. |nicrcrcppinv Principlcs cn! Prc!uciicn Prcciiccs , and Icrmsccpinv ic |n|cncc 8iclcviccl Ccn-
ircl.
Tloso four ocosyslon procossos onorgy fIov, valor cycIo, ninoraI cycIo, and ocosyslon dynan-
ics) funclion logollor as a vloIo, oacl ono conpIononling llo ollors. Wlon vo n odify any ono of
lloso, vo affocl llo ollors as voII. Wlon vo buiId our farn onlorprisos around lloso procossos, vo
aro appIying naluro's principIos lo suslain llo farn for our faniIy and for fuluro gonoralions. Wlon
vo figll naluro's procossos, vo incur oxlra cosls and croalo noro probIons, lurling oursoIvos and llo
ocosyslon on vlicl vo dopond.
Figure 3. Mineral Cycle. Source: Sullivan, 1999.
Illustration by Andrea Fournet.
LISTING OF TOOLS BY THEIR EFFECT ON
Increased
Biodiversity
Decreased
Biodiversity
Intercropping Crop rotation Cover crops Multispecies grazing
TABLE 2
Monocropping Tillage Herbicides Insecticides
//AIILYING THE IRINCIILES OF SISTAINABLE FARMING IAGE 6
A profitable farm has a threadbare look
(Salatin, 1998), primarily because money is not
spent on flashy items that don't produce profit.
Amish farmer David Kline says one of the secrets
of staying profitable is "don't spend money" (Myers,
1998).
ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY
SELECTING PROFITABLE ENTERPRISES TO ENSURE
ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY
Econonic s uslainabiIily i ncroasingIy do-
ponds on soIocling profilabIo onlorprisos, sound
financiaI pIanning, proaclivo narIoling, risI
nanagononl, and good ovoraII nanagononl.
Tlo Ioy for rov-crop producors nay bo lo ox-
pIoro incono opporlunilios ollor llan lradi-
lionaI connodily crops, sucl as conlracl grov-
ing of sood corn, spociaIly corn, food-grado soy-
boans, or popcorn. Tloso spociaIly crops aro nol
for ovoryono onIy a corlain nunbor of acros can
bo grovn bocauso of Iinilod narIols. Expand-
ing organic narIols suggosl anollor possibIo
niclo. AIlornalivo crops IiIo saffIovor, sun-
fIovor, fIax, and ollors nay bo an oplion for
Ionglloning a corn and soyboan rolalion Ioarn
noro in llo ATTRA pubIicalion AIlornalivo Ag-
rononic Crops. Ollor oxanpIos of divorsifica-
lion slralogios aro avaiIabIo in llo ATTRA pub-
Iicalions |tcluciinv c Rurcl |nicrprisc and Mct-
inv 8cucn! Ccntcniicncl Ccs| Crcppinv.
Aullor and succossfuI snaII farnor IooI
SaIalin 1998) advocalos going vill sovoraI con-
lorpioco onlorprisos lo vlicl can bo addod sov-
oraI conpIononlary onlorprisos. Tlo conpIo-
nonlary onlorprisos ovorIap vill l lo c onlor-
pioco onlorprisos by slaring sono of llo sano
ovorload roquirononls, llus Iovoring ovoraI I
cosls for aII llo onlorprisos. Wlon vo lry lo pro-
duco a singIo producl sucl as vloal, corn, or
soyboans, our risI is ligl bocauso aII our oggs
aro in ono basIol. Wlon vo inlogralo pIanl and
aninaI agricuIluro vo dislribulo ovorload and
risI anong sovoraI onlorprisos.
COMPREHENSIVE FINANCIAL PLANNING IS A MUST
Tlo loIislic financiaI pIanning procoss usod
in HoIislic Managononl providos a nonllIy
roadnap lo loIp poopIo navigalo llrougl lloir
financiaI yoar, assurod llal llo profil viII bo
lloro al yoar's ond. Tlo incono is pIannod firsl,
llon a pIannod profil is aIIocalod as llo firsl ox-
ponso ilon. Tlo ronaining oxponso nonoy is
aIIocalod soquonliaIIy vloro il viII do llo nosl
good. Tlis soquonliaI aIIocalion roquiros llal
llo farnor spond no noro llan nocossary lo run
llo onlorpriso f or a yoar, vliIo prosorving l lo
pIannod profil. Tlis polonl financiaI pIanning
procoss onpovors poopIo lo naIo docisions llal
aro sinuIlanoousIy good for llo onvironnonl,
llo IocaI connunily, and llo bollon Iino. Loarn
noro by roquosling llo ATTRA pubIicalion on-
lilIod Hclisiic Mcncvcmcni. AIso ovaIualo ollor
financiaI pIanning looIs llal aIIov onlorpriso
budgoling, cosl caIcuIalions, parliaI budgoling
anaIysis, and norolloso slouId bo avaiIabIo
fron your IocaI Exlonsion agonl. Businoss pIan-
ning soflvaro is avaiIabIo fron IocaI soflvaro
rolaiI sloros.
Evory farn noods a narIoling pIan of sono
lypo. MarIoling can laIo nany forns, ranging
fron passivo narIoling in llo connodily clain
lo narIoling a rolaiI producl diroclIy lo consun-
ors. Wlicl narIoling nollod you clooso viII
lavo a profound offocl on llo pri co your prod-
ucl connands. Doing sono narIol rosoarcl is
ossonliaI in ordor lo undorsland your narIol,
conpolilion, and consunor lronds, and lo pro|ocl
polonliaI saIos voIuno and pricos. SpociaIly and
dirocl narIols sucl as organic, GMO-froo, and
ollor groon narIols yioId noro incono bul ro-
quiro noro narIoling by llo producor. Dirocl
narIoling is nol for ovoryono.
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY
Docisions nado on llo farn lavo offocls in
llo IocaI connunily. For oxanpIo, llo docision
lo oxpand your oporalion roquiros llo acquisi-
lion of your noiglbor's farn. To lavo your
noiglbor's farn, you nusl naIo llo docision llal
your noiglbor's farn is noro inporlanl lo you
llan your noiglbor. Ollor oxanpIos of sociaI
docisions incIudo buying suppIios IocaIIy rallor
IAGE 7 //AIILYING THE IRINCIILES OF SISTAINABLE FARMING
llan ordoring fron oul of slalo, figuring oul vays
lo connocl IocaI consunors vill your farn, laI-
ing a consunor-orionlod approacl lo produclion
and nanagononl praclicos vloro boll llo
farnor and consunor vin, and finding opporlu-
nilios lo onsuro llal noiglboring connunilios
can Ioarn aboul suslainabIo food produclion.
MarIoling slralogios sucl as connunily sup-
porlod agricuIluro CSA), dirocl narIoling
llrougl farnors' narIols, sclooI lours, and in-
lornslips aII lavo a posilivo inpacl on llo IocaI
connunily. Wlon poopIo lavo a cloico bolvoon
supporling IocaI producors or paying a IillIo Ioss
for llo producls of llo induslriaI food syslon,
lloy viII oflon clooso lo supporl lloir noiglbors.
Farnors soIIing IocaIIy bonofil fron difforonlial-
ing lloir producls and sorvicos by quaIilios ollor
llan prico. Frosl produco, spociaIly ilons, and
IocaIIy grovn and procossod foods aro conpoli-
livo in llo n arIol pIaco, ospo ciaIIy vlon con-
sunor oducalion and porsonaI conlacl vill llo
farnor aro parl of llo narIoling pIan.
SociaI suslainabiIily aIso incIudos llo quaI-
ily of Iifo of lloso vlo vorI and Iivo on llo farn,
incIuding good connunicalion, lrusl, and nu-
luaI supporl. FuII faniIy parlicipalion in farn
pIanning is an indicalion llal llo quaIily of Iifo
is ligl. Ollor indicalors incIudo laIIing oponIy
and lonoslIy, sponding lino logollor, a fooIing
of progross lovard goaIs, and gonoraI lappinoss.
OuaIily of Iifo viII bo dofinod sonovlal diffor-
onlIy by oacl individuaI and faniIy, basod on
lloir vaIuos and goaIs. Moro infornalion on on-
suring llal quaIily of Iifo is accounlod for in farn
pIanning is avaiIabIo fron llo ATTRA pubIica-
lion Hclisiic Mcncvcmcni and in booIs IiIo Rui
8usicr A Visucl Gccl Sciiinv 8cc| BurIoson and
BurIoson, 1994).
PLANNING AND DECISION MAKING
Managing for llroo ob|oclivos sinuIlanoousIy
ocononics, socioly, onvironn onl) doponds o n
cIoar goaI-solling and offoclivo docision-naIing.
SovoraI good looIs for docision-naIing, goaI-sol-
ling, and vloIo-farn nanagononl aro avaiIabIo
lo farnors. Tlo Korr Conlor for SuslainabIo Ag-
ricuIluro, for oxanpIo, las dovoIopod a
suslainabiIily clocIslool vill 72 criloria for
quicI ovaIualion of farning syslons Horno and
McDornoll, No dalo). ATTRA las producod
suslainabiIily clocIslools for boof and dairy on-
lorprisos, avaiIabIo by roquosl and on our
vobsilo. A noro conprolonsivo approacl is
HoIislic Managononl, nonlionod abovo. Ro-
quosl llo ATTRA pubIicalion onlilIod Hclisiic
Mcncvcmcni for noro infornalion, or conlacl
AIIan Savory Conlor for HoIislic
Managononl
1O1O Ti|oras, N.W.
AIbuquorquo, NM 871O2
5O5-842-5252
lllp//vvv.loIislicnanagononl.org
A succossfuI lransilion lo suslainabIo farn-
ing doponds on llo farnor's carofuI noniloring
boll of progross lovards llo goaI and of llo ovor-
aII loaIll of llo syslon. Il is usofuI lo assuno
llal your pIan viII nol vorI and dovoIop a sys-
lon for dolornining as soon as possibIo) if il isn'l
vorIing. For oxanpIo, if llo goaI incIudos in-
croasod biodivorsily, llo farnor noods lo Inov
quicIIy if llo grazing or cropping syslon bo-
ing usod is acluaIIy incroasing llo nunbor of
pIanl spocios por acro. Moniloring is parlicuIarIy
inporlanl in suslainabIo agricuIluro, vlicl ro-
Iios on naluraI syslons lo ropIaco sono of llo
vorI dono by inpul producls IiIo forliIizor and
poslicidos.
Tlo abiIily lo ovaIualo and ropIan is vilaI lo
llo farnor vlo vislos lo farn noro suslainabIy.
Wlon parl of llo pIan is nol vorIing as inlondod,
il boconos nocossary lo ropIan. Tlo concopl of
pIanning-noniloring-conlroIIing-ropIanning is a
Ioy claraclorislic of HoIislic Managononl and
is roforrod lo as llo |cc!ccc| lccp.
Tlo lransilion lovard noro suslainabIo farn-
ing roquiros nol onIy pIanning and docision-
naIing sIiIIs bul accoss lo approprialo and loIp-
fuI infornalion. ForlunaloIy, incroasod inlorosl
in suslainabIo agricuIluro las slinuIalod groalor
invoslnonl in rosoarcl and oducalion. As a ro-
suIl, nucl noro usabIo infornalion is avaiIabIo
loday llan ovor boforo, accossibIo llrougl vari-
ous noans, ono of llon boing ATTRA. In addi-
lion lo pubIicalions and cuslon roporls on pro-
duclion and narIoling, ATTRA providos ro-
sourco Iisls covoring suslainabIo agricuIluro or-
ganizalions, oducalionaI prograns, inlornslips,
and roIalod rosourcos. Roquosl an ATTRA Iub-
Iicalions Lisl or go lo llo ATTRA vobsilo for on-
Iino accoss lo aII our pubIicalions.
//AIILYING THE IRINCIILES OF SISTAINABLE FARMING IAGE 8
EFFECT OF EROSION ON ORGANIC MATTER,
PHOSPHORUS, AND PLANT-AVAILABLE WATER
Source: Schertz et al., 1984
________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________
% lbs / ac %
Slight 3 62 7.4
Moderate 2.5 61 6.2
Severe 1.9 40 3.6
Erosion level Organic matter Phosphorus Plant-available water
Table 3.
offocl of sIigll, nodoralo, and sovoro orosion on
organic nallor, soiI plosplorus IovoI, and pIanl-
avaiIabIo valor on a siIl Ioan soiI in Indiana
Sclorlz ol aI., 1984).
Wlon orosion by valor and vind occurs al a
ralo of 7.6 lons/acro/yoar il cosls $4O/acro/yoar
lo r opIaco l lo I osl nulrionls as f orliIizor, and
around $17/acro/yoar lo punp irrigalion valor
lo ropIaco llo valor loIding capacily of llal Iosl
soiI Trool ol aI., 1991). SoiI and valor Iosl fron
I.S. cropIand causos produclivily Ioss of ap-
proxinaloIy $27 biIIion oacl yoar IinonloI ol
aI., 1995).
AVOID MOLDBOARD PLOWING AT ALL COSTS
SoiI is danagod considorabIy vlonovor il is
lurnod ovor. Tlo noIdboard pIov brings sub-
soiI lo llo surfaco and burios llo crop rosi duo
Iayor so doop il is unabIo lo docay proporIy. Vir-
luaIIy no soiI rosiduo is Iofl on llo surfaco, ox-
posing llo soiI lo orosion and inpairing llo va-
lor and ninoraI cycIos. Today, niIIions of acros
aro boing farnod villoul any liIIago al aII no-
liII) or in sucl a vay llal adoqualo groundcovor
ronains aflorvards ridgo liII, zono liII, nini-
nun liII). Iroduclion syslons llal roduco or
oIininalo liIIago in a nannor consislonl vill of-
foclivo vood conlroI f oslor l lo f our ocosyslon
procossos discussod abovo. Road aboul an inno-
valivo no-liII syslon llal usos annuaI covor crops
in llo ExanpIos of SuccossfuI Transilions soc-
lion. For noro infornalion, roquosl llo lvo
ATTRA pubIicalions Ccnscrtciicn 1illcvc and
Pursuinv Ccnscrtciicn 1illcvc |cr Orvcnic Crcp Prc-
!uciicn.
APPLYING THE PRINCIPLES
Wlon boginning llo lransilion, llo big
quoslion is lov lo appIy llo principIos of
ocononic profilabiIily, sociaI onlancononl,
and ocoIogicaI inprovononl in llo fioId, in
llo connunily, and in llo financiaI pro-
coss. Tlo docisions vo naIo on our farns
and llo looIs and praclicos vo clooso viII
dolornino llo oxlonl lo vlicl suslainabiIily
is roaIizod. Tlo uIlinalo goaI is lo farn in
sucl a vay llal vo oxlracl our Iiving as llo
inlorosl, vliIo prosorving llo sociaI, valor,
and soiI capilaI. Wo vanl lo onsuro llal our
aclivilios do nol conproniso llo Iandscapo
and connunily rosourcos ovor llo Iong
lorn. Nov Iol's IooI al sono nanagononl
concopls ainod al fosloring llo four ocosyslon
procossos discussod oarIior.
STRIVE TO KEEP THE SOIL COVERED THROUGHOUT THE YEAR
Indor naluraI condilions llo soiI ronains
covorod vill a sIin of doad pIanl naloriaI, vlicl
nodoralos lonporaluro oxlronos, incroasos va-
lor ponolralion and slorago, and onlancos soiI
aoralion. Mosl inporlanlIy, llo soiI sIin nain-
lains soiI slrucluro and provonls orosion by sofl-
oning l lo i npacl of f aIIing r aindrops. B aro
ground, on llo ollor land, is vuInorabIo lo va-
lor and vind orosion, drios oul noro quicIIy, and
Iosos organic nallor rapidIy.
Tlo na|or produclivily cosls associalod vill
soiI orosion cono f ron l lo ropIacononl of I osl
nulrionls and roducod valor loIding abiIily, ac-
counling for 5O lo 75 of produclivily Ioss
IinonloI ol aI., 1995). SoiI ronovod by orosion
lypicaIIy conlains aboul llroo linos noro nulri-
onls llan llo soiI Iofl bolind and is 1.5 lo 5linos
riclor in organic nallor IinonloI ol aI., 1995).
Tlis organic nallor Ioss nol onIy rosuIls in ro-
ducod valor loIding capacily and dogradod soiI
aggrogalion, bul aIso Ioss of pIanl nulrionls,
vlicl nusl llon bo ropIacod vill forliIizors. Fivo
lons of lopsoiI llo ISDA loIoranco IovoI for
orosion) can oasiIy conlain 1OO pounds of nilro-
gon, 6O pounds of plosplalo, 45 pounds of pol-
asl, 2 pounds of caIciun, 1O pounds of nagno-
siun, and 8 pounds of suIfur. TabIo 3 slovs llo
IAGE 9 //AIILYING THE IRINCIILES OF SISTAINABLE FARMING
DIVERSIFY
Enlorpriso divorsificalion roducos financiaI
risI by sproading incono and cosls o.g., of posl
conlroI and forliIizor) oul ovor sovoraI crops or
IivoslocI oporalions. SuslainabiIily is incroasod
vlon aninaI vaslos bocono inpuls lo crop pro-
duclion on llo sano farn.
ROTATE CROPS
Moving fron sinpIo nonocuIluro lo a liglor
IovoI of divorsily bogins vill crop rolalions,
vlicl broaI vood and posl Iifo cycIos, provido
conpIononlary forliIizalion lo crops in soquonco
vill oacl ollornilrogon-fixing Ioguno crops
procoding grain crops sucl as cornand provonl
buiIdup of posl insocls and voods. In nany casos,
yioId incroasos foIIov fron llo rolalion offocl.
IncIuding forago crops in llo rolalion viII roduco
soiI orosion and incroaso soiI quaIily.
Wlon pIanning crop rolalions, il is inporlanl
lo considor llal cuIlivalod rov cropssucl as
corn and soyboans or vogolabIos lond lo bo soiI-
dograding. Sinco llo soiI is opon and cuIlivalod
bolvoon rovs, nicrobos broaI dovn organic
nallor al a noro rapid paco. Furllornoro, rov
crops lavo nodosl rool syslons and conso-
quonlIy do nol conlribulo onougl nov organic
nallor lo ropIaco llal Iosl fron llo opon soiI bo-
lvoon rovs in nosl casos abovo-ground crop
rosiduos naIo onIy ninor conlribulions lo ropIac-
ing Iosl organic nallor.
CoroaIs and ollor crops incIuding annuaI
groon nanuros) pIanlod vill a grain driII or
broadcasl-soodod aro noro cIosoIy spacod and
lavo noro oxlonsivo rool syslons llan rov crops,
groalIy roducing llo anounl of soiI oxposod lo
dogradalion. In addilion, lloy rocoivo IillIo or
no cuIlivalion aflor pIanling, vlicl roducos or-
ganic-nallor Ioss ovon noro. As a rosuIl, coroaIs
and groon nanuros can bo considorod noulraI
crops, ropIacing soiI organic nallor al rouglIy
llo sano ralo al vlicl il broaIs dovn. Crops
llal naIo a poronniaI sod covorsucl as grassos,
cIovors, and aIfaIfanol onIy Ioop llo soiI on-
liroIy covorod, bul aIso lavo nassivo rool s ys-
lons, producing far noro organic nallor llan is
Iosl. Sod crops aro llo bosl soiI-buiIding crops
lloy can loaI llo danago dono lo soiI by rov
cropping.
Incorporaling sod crops as a fundanonlaI
parl of a crop rolalion nol onIy buiIds soiI bul
supporls vood-conlroI slralogios as voII. Wood
conlroI inprovos bocauso llo lypos of voods on-
couragod by rov-cropping syslons aro usu aIIy
nol adaplod lo groving in a sod/lay crop. An
idoaI rolalion nigll incIudo ono yoar of sodcrop
for oacl yoar of rov crop, and as nany yoars of
noulraI crops as naIos sonso in llo circun-
slancos.
Tlo claIIongo of incorporaling sod crops inlo
a rolalion is lo incIudo IivoslocI in llo syslon or
lo find a narIol for llo lay. SuslainabIo pro-
duclion is nucl oasior vlon IivoslocI aro prosonl
in llo syslon lo rocycIo vaslos and assisl in lrans-
forring via nanuro) nulrionls fron ono parl of
llo farn lo anollor. ForlunaloIy, Iand capabIo of
producing a 1OO-busloI corn yioId viII gonoraIIy
bo abIo lo produco 5-lon lay yioIds. Will pricos
of $6O$7O por lon boing connon for ordinary
lay, gross rovonuos por acro fron lay viII ox-
cood lloso fron corn so Iong as corn is undor
$3.OO por busloI. Tlo nol- incono picluro is ovon
noro oncouraging, lovovor, bocauso convon-
lionaI produclion cosls f or an acro of corn aro
quilo a bil liglor llan for lay. A good crop of
aIfaIfa fixos al Ioasl $5O vorll of nilrogon ovory
yoar, llus roducing forliIizor cosls for llo subso-
quonl corn crop.
Bosidos oquipnonl cosls, llo na|or dravbacI
lo soIIing lay is llal llo nulrionls il conlains aro
slippod off llo farn. Sinco, lovovor, sonolling
IiIo 759O of llo ninoraIs going inlo llo fronl
ond of callIo cono oul llo bacI ond, Iooping
callIo loIps rolain nulrionls on llo farn. CallIo
can sorvo as a vory profilabIo nollod of adding
vaIuo lo llo forago crops lloy consuno. ATTRA
offors an oxlonsivo sorios of pubIicalions on sus-
lainabIo boof produclion and grass farning.
Intercropping is the growing of
two or more crops in proximity
to promote interaction between
them. Read the ATTRA publica-
tions Intercropping Principles
and Production Practices and
Companion Planting for more
information.
//AIILYING THE IRINCIILES OF SISTAINABLE FARMING IAGE 1O
Conposl las a uniquo advanlago in conparison
lo unagod nanuro and ollor organic soiI anond-
nonls in llal il las a usuaIIy) prodiclabIo, and
noarIy idoaI, ralio of carbon lo nilrogon Iarnos,
199O). Conposl can bo safoIy appIiod al ralos of
1O lons por acro Iarnos, 199O) vloro quanlilios
aro avaiIabIo. Mucl liglor ralos aro nol unusuaI,
ospociaIIy vloro soiI i s boing i nprovod r allor
llan nainlainod.
Conposl las sono parlicuIar advanlagos in
rov crop produclion, ospociaIIy vlon usod in
con|unclion vill covor crops and groon nanuros.
In sandy soiIs, conposl's slabIo organic nallor is
ospociaIIy offoclivo al absorbing and rolaining
valor. Frosl pIanl naloriaI incorporalod as groon
nanuro, on llo ollor land, rolains ils vaxy Ioaf
coaling and cannol porforn llo sano funclion
unliI llorouglIy digoslod by nicrobos.
Tloro aro sovoraI convonlionaI forliIizors llal
slouId bo avoidod in suslainabIo farning bo-
causo of lloir larnfuI offocls on soiI organisns
and slrucluro. Tloso incIudo anlydrous anno-
nia and polassiun clIorido. Tlo uso of doIo-
niloa Iining naloriaI laving a ligl nagno-
siun-lo-caIciun raliolas aIso boon gonoraIIy
discouragod, bul nosl probIons rosuIl fron llo
froquonl nisuso of doIonilo for raising pH on
soiIs aIroady ligl in nagnosiun, nol fron any
innalo dolrinonlaI quaIilios. Il is corlainIy ap-
proprialo for uso on f ioIds doficionl in nagno-
siun, as indicalod by a propor soiI losl.
Sono of llo noro onvironnonlaIIy friondIy
clonicaI forliIizors sucl as nono-annoniun
plosplalo 12-5O-O), connonIy caIIod MAI, nay
aIso lavo a roIo in llo lransilion avay fron llo
larslor clonicaI forliIizors. A vory sorvicoabIo
and affordabIo 4-16-16 lransilionaI forliIizor vill
nagnosiun, suIfur, and ollor ninor nulrionls
can bo proparod fron a conbinalion of lvo-
llirds suIfalo of polasl-nagnosia and ono-llird
nono-annoniun plosplalo. W lon usod i n
conbinalion vill conposls and/or Ioguno
pIovdovns for nilrogon), llis 4-16-16 can bo
bandod al sooding or ollorviso appIiod |usl IiIo
llo roguIar 5-2O-2O, bul vill roducod nogalivo
inpacl on soiI Iifo.
Significanl addilions of Iino, rocI plosplalo,
and ollor forliIizors slouId bo guidod by soiI losl-
ing lo avoid soiI inbaIancos and unnocossary ox-
pondiluro on inpuls. Cooporalivo Exlonsion of-
fors Iov-cosl soiI losling sorvicos in nany slalos.
AIso rofor lo ATTRA's Alicrnciitc Scil 1csiinv
Icccrcicrics pubIicalion.
USE COVER CROPS AND GREEN MANURES
IoronniaI and bionniaI s od c rops, annuaI
groon nanuros, and annuaI covor crops aro in-
porlanl f or buiIding soiI i n f ioId-cropping sys-
lons. Hairy volcl, for oxanpIo, nol onIy is a soiI-
consorving covor crop, bul is capabIo of provid-
ing aII llo nilrogon roquirod by subsoquonl crops
IiIo lonaloos AbduI-BaIi and ToasdaIo, 1994).
Tlo soiI-buiIding crops nosl approprialo for
a givon farn dopond nol onIy on rogionaI fac-
lors larslnoss of vinlor, olc.) bul aIso on llo
lypo of produclion syslon invoIvod oacl farnor
viII lavo lo d olornino vlicl covor crops a ro
nosl approprialo lo lis or lor syslon. For noro
infornalion soo llo ATTRA pubIicalion Otcrticu
c| Cctcr Crcps cn! Grccn Mcnurcs.
COMPOSTS, MANURES, AND
FERTILIZERS
Crop rolalions, covor-cropping, and groon-
nanuring aro Ioy slralogios for soiI buiIding,
vlicl is llo foundalion of suslainabIo farning.
Hovovor, nodorn produclion syslons pIaco
ligl donands on Iand rosourcos, roquiring ad-
dilionaI allonlion lo soiI forliIily nanagononl.
ATTRA's Susicincclc Scil McncvcmcnipubIicalion
providos praclicaI infornalion aboul aIlornalivo
soiI nanagononl approaclos. Sinco sono of
lloso approaclos onlaiI l lo uso of off-farn i n-
puls, lvo addilionaI ATTRA pubIicalions, Alicr-
nciitc Scil Amcn!mcnis and Scurccs c| Orvcnic Icr-
iilizcrs c Amcn!mcnis, aro aIso roconnondod.
Manuros and conposls, ospociaIIy lloso pro-
ducod on-farn or avaiIabIo IocaIIy al Iov cosl,
aro idoaI rosourcos for cycIing nulrionls on-farn.
Fron llo slandpoinl of ovoraII soiI and crop
loaIll, conposls or agod nanuros aro proforrod.
0raz|rg ar|ra|s ard ol|er ||vesloc| car oe rar-
aged or crop|ards lo reduce cosls. |rcrease |rcore. ard
|rcrease d|vers|lv. T|ere are Wavs ol |rcorporal|rg ar|-
ra|s |rlo cropp|rg W|l|oul l|e larrer gell|rg |rlo ar|ra|
|usoardrv or oWrers||p d|recl|v . Co||aooral|or W|l|
re|g|oors W|o oWr ar|ra|s W||| oerel|l ool| croppers
ard ||vesloc| oWrers. 0raz|rg or |ogg|rg-ol l ol corr
res|due |s ore exarp|e W|ere a cosl car oe lurred |rlo
a prol|l. T|e ar|ra|s rep|ace l|e $ per-acre sla|| roW-
|rg cosl ard produce |rcore |r ar|ra| ga|rs.
IAGE 11 //AIILYING THE IRINCIILES OF SISTAINABLE FARMING
WEED MANAGEMENT
Wood nanagononl posos ono of llo groalosl
claIIongos lo llo crafling of suslainabIo produc-
lion syslons. Hovovor, vood popuIalions lond
lo docIino in sovorily as soiI loaIll buiIds. A ba-
sic undorslanding of vood ocoIogy and llo in-
fIuonco of cropping pallorns on vood connuni-
lios viII loIp grovors rofino lloir uso of cuIluraI
and noclanicaI loclniquos, lloroby roducing llo
lino roquirod for offoclivo vood conlroI.
Irovonlion of vood probIons is a fundanon-
laI conpononl of nan-
agononl. I n g onoraI
lorns, vood provonlion
in crops is basod on do-
voIoping a sound rola-
lion, llvarling aII al-
lonpls by oxisling
voods lo sol sood, and
nininizing llo arrivaI
of nov vood soods fron
oulsido llo fioId. In a
grazing syslon, vood
nanagononl nay bo as
sinpIo as adding ollor
aninaI spocios sucl as
goals or sloop lo a callIo lord lo convorl voods
inlo casl.
Corlain crops can bo usod lo snollor voods.
Slorl-duralion pIanlings of bucIvloal and sor-
glun-sudangrass, for oxanpIo, snollor voods
by groving faslor and oul-conpoling llon. In
norllorn slalos, oals aro connonIy pIanlod as a
nurso crop for aIfaIfa, cIovor, and Ioguno-grass
nixlurosllo oals sinpIy laIo llo pIaco of
voods llal vouId ollorviso grov bolvoon llo
young aIfaIfa pIanls.
Will onougl nuIcl, vood nunbors can bo
groalIy roducod. Nobras Ia scionlisls ap pIiod
vloal slrav in oarIy spring lo a fioId vloro vloal
lad boon larvoslod llo provious Augusl. Al llo
liglor slrav ralos, vood IovoIs voro roducod
noro llan llroo linos ovor soo Figuro 3). Wloal,
IiIo ryo, is aIso Inovn lo possoss vood-suppross-
ing clonicaIs in llo slrav ilsoIf. Tlis quaIily is
Inovn as aIIoIopally.
Ryo i s ono of l lo nosl usofuI aIIoIopallic
covor crops bocauso il is vinlor-lardy and can
bo grovn aInosl anyvloro. Ryo rosiduo conlains
gonorous anounls of aIIoIopallic clonicaIs.
Wlon ryo is IiIIod in pIaco and Iofl undislurbod
on llo soiI surfaco, lloso clonicaIs Ioacl oul and
provonl gorninalion of snaII-soodod voods.
Wood supprossion is offoclivo for aboul 3O6O
days Daar, 1986). If llo ryo is liIIod inlo llo soiI,
llo offocl is Iosl.
TabIo 4 slovs llo offocls of sovoraI coroaI
covor crops on vood produclion. Nolo llal liII-
ago aIono, in llo absonco ofany covor crop, noro
llan doubIod llo nunbor of voods.
WliIo a good vood-provonlion progran viII
docroaso vood prossuro subslanliaIIy, succoss-
fuI crop produclion sliII roquiros a voII-con-
coivod progran for conlroIIing voods lo llo poinl
vloro lloy lavo no nogalivo inpacl on nol in-
cono. Wood conlroI prograns incIudo a rango
of carofuIIy linod inlorvonlions dosignod lo IiII
as nany young soodIings as possibIo. ATTRA
las addilionaI infornalion on vood conlroI op-
lions for boll agrononic and lorlicuIluraI crops,
avaiIabIo on roquosl, incIuding llo pubIicalion
Principlcs c| Susicincclc Wcc! Mcncvcmcni |cr Crcp-
lcn!s.
Figure 4. Effect of straw mulch on weeds at two
locations in Nebraska. Source: Crutchfield et al.,
1985.
Weed Levels at two Nebraska
Locations
0
100
200
300
400
500
600
0 0.75 1.5 2.25 3
Mulch rate - tons/acre
W
e
e
d

n
u
m
b
e
r
s
/
a
c
r
e
Sidney
North Platte
Weed weight
Tillage Cover crop Weeds/foot
2
pounds/foot
2
Conventional None 12 0.22
None None 5 0.14
None Rye 0.9 0.1
None Wheat 0.3 0.07
None Barley 0.8 0.09
_____________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________
Tillage and Cover Crop Mulch Effect on
Weed Numbers and Production
Table 4.
Source: Schertz et al., 1984
//AIILYING THE IRINCIILES OF SISTAINABLE FARMING IAGE 12
"Farmscaping" refers to practices that
increase diversity on the farm by pro-
viding habitat for beneficial organisms.
Borders, windbreaks, and special
plantings for natural enemies of pests
serve this purpose. Request the
ATTRA publication Farmscaping to
Enhance Biological Control for more
information.
INSECT PEST MANAGEMENT
Insocl posls can lavo a sorious inpacl on
farn incono. In ocoIogicaIIy baIancod farn pro-
duclion syslons, insocl posls aro aIvays prosonl,
bul nassivo oulbroaIs rosuIling in sovoro oco-
nonic danago aro nininizod. T lis rosuIls i n
good parl fron llo prosonco of naluraI conlroI
agonlsospociaIIy prodalory and parasilic in-
socls, nilos, and spidorsllal Ioop posl popu-
Ialions in clocI. To rosloro popuIalions of
bonoficiaIs on llo farn, coaso or roduco poslicido
uso and ollor praclicos llal larn llon, and os-
labIisl labilals llrougl farnscaping.
In divorso farn syslons, sovoro posl oul-
broaIs aro raro bocauso naluraI conlroIs oxisl lo
aulonalicaIIy bring popuIalions bacI inlo baI-
anco. Tloro is ovorvloIning ovidonco llal pIanl
nixluros inlorcrops) supporl Iovor nunbors of
posls llan puro slands AIliori and Liobnan,
1994). Tloro aro lvo sclooIs of llougll on vly
llis occurs. Ono suggosls llal liglor naluraI-
onony popuIalions porsisl i n divorso nixluros
bocauso lloy provido noro conlinuous food
sourcos noclar, poIIon, and proy) and labilal.
Tlo ollor llougll is llal posl insocls vlo food
on onIy ono lypo of pIanl lavo groalor opporlu-
nily lo food, novo around, and brood in puro crop
slands bocauso lloir rosourcos aro noro concon-
lralod llan lloy vouId bo in a crop nixluro
AIliori and Liobnan, 1994).
Inlorcropping aIso aids posl conlroI offorls
by roducing llo abiIily of llo posl insocls lo roc-
ognizo lloir losl pIanls. For oxanpIo, llrips and
vlilo fIios aro allraclod lo groon pIanls vill a
brovn soiI) bacIground, and ignoro aroas vloro
vogolalivo covor is conpIoloincIuding
nuIclod soiI EcoIogicaI AgricuIluro Iro|ocls, No
dalo). Sono inlorcrops llus disguiso llo losl
pIanl fron lloso posls by conpIoloIy covoring
llo soiI. Ollor insocls rocognizo lloir losl pIanl
by snoII onions pIanlod vill carrols nasI llo
snoII of carrols fron carrol fIios. For noro infor-
nalion on conpanion pIanling for insocl nan-
agononl soo llo ATTRA pubIicalions
Icrmsccpinv ic |n|cncc 8iclcviccl Ccnircland Ccm-
pcnicn Plcniinv.
Soonor or Ialor, noarIy ovory grovor con-
fronls unaccoplabIo posl prossuro, naIing sono
Iind of inlorvonlion nocossary. I nlogralod posl
nanagononl IIM) is llo basic franovorI usod
lo docido vlon and lov posls aro conlroIIod.
Tlo prinary goaI of IIM is lo givo grovors nan-
agononl guidoIinos i n ordor lo naIo posl con-
lroI as ocononicaIIy and ocoIogicaIIy sound as
possibIo.
IIM inlogralos labilal nodificalion and cuI-
luraI, plysicaI, bioIogicaI, and clonicaI praclicos
lo nininizo crop Iossos. Moniloring, rocord
Iooping, and Iifo-cycIo infornalion aboul posls
and lloir naluraI ononios aro usod lo dolornino
vlicl conlroI noasuros aro noodod lo Ioop posls
boIov an ocononicaIIy danaging llrosloId. For
noro dolaiIiod infornalion on IIM, soo llo
ATTRA pubIicalion 8icinicnsitc |nicvrcic! Pcsi
Mcncvcmcni.
BioIogicaI conlroIllo uso of Iiving organ-
isns lo conlroI crop posls is ono of llo piIIars
of IIM. BioconlroI agonls nay bo prodalory,
parasilic, or pallogonic lloy nay aIso bo oillor
naluraI fron naluraIIy occurring organisns
sucl as viId bonoficiaI insocls) or appIiod
noaning llo organisns aro inlroducod).
BioconlroI agonls incIudo insocls, nilos, baclo-
ria, fungi, virusos, and nonalodos. Corlain bon-
oficiaI nonalodos Sicincrncmc spocios, for ox-
anpIo) lransnil pallogons lo lloir proy and
couId bo soon as a forn of indiroclIy appIiod
bioconlroI.
A working knowledge of the life cycles of
pests and their natural enemies enables the
grower to identify and exploit the weak link in a
pest's life cycle. Several good books and publi-
cations on insect identification are available
through Cooperative Extension; more can be
found in libraries and bookstores.
IAGE 13 //AIILYING THE IRINCIILES OF SISTAINABLE FARMING
Wlon aII ollor IIM laclics aro unabIo lo
nainlain insocl posl popuIalions boIov ocononic
llrosloIds, insoclicido appIicalion lo conlroI llo
posls and provonl ocononic Ioss is cIoarIy |usli-
fiod. In sucl casos, farnors concornod vill
suslainabiIily viII usuaIIy allonpl lo oblain sal-
isfaclory conlroI using ono of l lo bioralionaI
poslicidos, vlicl aro fairIy posl-spocific and usu-
aIIy non-porsislonl, causing a nininaI anounl
of larn lo bonoficiaI organisns. BioralionaI pos-
licidos incIudo sono convonlionaI synllolic posl
conlroI naloriaIs, bul noro lypicaIIy aro nicro-
biaI insoclicidos IiIo 8ccillus i|urinvicnsis or
8ccutcric ccssicnc insoclicidaI soaps plorononos
for lrapping or naling disruplion), and insocl
grovll roguIalors. BolanicaI pIanl oxlracls IiIo
noon and ryania aro aIso Inovn as Ioasl-loxic,
narrov-spoclrun conlroIs, conbining nininaI
nogalivo inpacl on bonoficiaI spocios vill vory
rapid doconposilion in llo onvironnonl.
Farns oxpIoring IIM concopls for llo firsl
lino nay Iinil lloir invoIvononl lo noniloring
IovoIs of ono or lvo posls on a socondary crop,
appIying lloir usuaI insoclicido if llo llrosloId
of ocononic in|ury is approaclod. Ollors nay
slifl fron a broad-spoclrun insoclicido lo a noro
bonoficiaI-friondIy naloriaI. As oporalor con-
forl vill IIM incroasos, il is connon lo appIy
basic concopls lo llo prinary crop and oxpand
IIM nanagononl on llo socondary croppor-
laps llrougl llo inlroduclion of bonoficiaI para-
silos or prodalors of llo largol posl insocl.
As lloy novo lovards groalor suslainabiIily,
IIM prograns lond lo go llrougl llroo plasos,
vill oacl slago using and buiIding on provious
InovIodgo and loclniquos Forro, 1993)
a)Tlo csticidc managcmcnt hasc, clar-
aclorizod by oslabIisling ocononic
llrosloIds, sanpIing, and spraying as
noodod.
b)Tlo cu!tura! managcmcnt hasc, basod
on a llorougl undorslanding of llo posl's
bioIogy and ils roIalionslip lo llo crop-
ping syslon. Taclics onpIoyod lo con-
lroI posls incIudo doIayod pIanling dalos,
crop rolalion, aIlorod larvosl dalos, olc.
c) Tlo bio!ogica! contro! hasc, or bio-in-
lonsivo IIM, roquiros llorougl undor-
slanding of llo bioIogy of naluraI on-
onios in addilion lo llal of llo posl) and
an abiIily lo noasuro lov offoclivo lloso
agonls aro in conlroIIing posls. Wlon
naluraI agonls do nol nool oxpoclod
goaIs, llo IIM praclilionor usos sofl pos-
licidos roIalivoIy non-loxic lo nonlargol
organisns), and linos appIicalions for
nininaI inpacl on bonoficiaIs.
PLANT DISEASE MANAGEMENT
Tlo firsl slop lovard provonling sorious dis-
oaso probIons in any cropping syslon is llo pro-
duclion o f l oaIlly p Ianls n urlurod b y a
nicrobiaIIy aclivo soiI. HoaIlly soiI supprossos
rool disoasos naluraIIy llo prinary noans lo
croalo disoaso-supprossivo soiI is lo add bioIogi-
caIIy aclivo conposl al approprialo ralos lo a soiI
vill baIancod ninoraI IovoIs. SuppIononlaI
slralogios incIudo crop rolalion, rosislanl cuIli-
vars, good soiI drainago, adoqualo air novononl,
and pIanling cIoan sood.
BioralionaI fungicidos incIudo conposl loas
vlicl add bonoficiaI fungi capabIo of provonl-
ing coIonizalion of llo crop by pallogons), baI-
ing soda, and pIanl oxlracls. As vill insocl posl
conlroI, inlogralod nanagononl principIos
slouId bo appIiod, incIuding noniloring of on-
vironnonlaI condilions lo dolornino vlollor
provonlivo fungicidaI sprays aro roquirod. F or
noro infornalion on lov loaIlly soiI foslors a
draslic roduclion in rool disoasos, roquosl llo
ATTRA pubIicalion Susicincclc Mcncvcmcni c|
Scil-ccrnc Plcni Disccscs.
EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSFUL
TRANSITIONS
STEVE GROFF OF PENNSYLVANIA
Slovo Groff and lis faniIy produco vog-
olabIos, aIfaIfa, and grain crops profilabIy on 175
Farmers need to consider carefully how to
manage the shift to fewer pesticides during
the first few years, before beneficial insect
populations have rebuilt to levels where they
can exert significant control of the major
pests. Farmers should plan to work closely
with local expertsespecially farmers with
transition experienceto ensure as smooth
a shift as possible.
//AIILYING THE IRINCIILES OF SISTAINABLE FARMING IAGE 14
acros in Lancaslor Counly, IonnsyIvania.
Wlon Slovo looI ovor oporalion of llo faniIy
farn 15 yoars ago, lis nunbor-ono concorn vas
oIininaling soiI orosion inproving llo valor
cycIo). ConsoquonlIy, lo bogan using covor crops
oxlonsivoIy inproving llo valor and ninoraI
cycIo and incroasing connunily dynanics).
Slovo usos a 1O-fool BuffaIo roIIing slaII
cloppor lo lransforn a groon covor crop inlo a
no-liII nuIcl. Indor llo lilcl-nounlod frano,
llo slaII cloppor las lvo sols of roIIors running
in landon. Tloso roIIors can bo ad|uslod for Iigll
or aggrossivo aclion and sol for conlinuous cov-
orago. Slovo says llo naclino can bo run up lo 8
niIos an lour and doos a good |ob of IiIIing llo
covor crop and pusling il rigll dovn on llo soiI.
Il can aIso bo usod lo fIallon dovn ollor crop
rosiduos aflor larvosl. Groff inprovod lis clop-
por by adding indopondonl IinIagos and springs
lo oacl roIIor. Tlis nodificalion naIos oacl unil
noro fIoxibIo, lo aIIov conlinuous uso ovor un-
ovon lorrain. FoIIoving lis cloppor, Groff lrans-
pIanls vogolabIo soodIings or pIanls no-liII svool
corn and snap boans inlo llo IiIIod nuIcl. In-
dor l lo covor-crop nuIcl syslon, lis soiIs aro
proloclod fron orosion and lavo bocono nucl
noIIovor as a rosuIl of llo inprovod valor
cycIo). For noro infornalion, ordor Slovo's vidoo
Iislod in llo Rosourcos soclion boIov or visil lis
Wob pago, lllp//vvv.codarnoadovfarn.
con/aboul.llnI>, vloro you can soo plolos of
llo covor-crop roIIor and no-liII lranspIanlor in
aclion, as voII as losl-pIol rosuIls conparing fIaiI
noving, roIIing, and lorbicido IiIIing of covor
crops.
DICK AND SHARON THOMPSON OF IOWA
DicI and Slaron aro voII Inovn in llo sus-
lainabIo agricuIluro connunily for an inlogralod
faniIy farn syslon llal las broad inpIicalions
for llo Iargor agricuIluraI connunily. Tloir sys-
lon is basod nol on oxpansion bul on nainlo-
nanco of IocaI connunily vaIuos. Excorpls fron
a WaIIaco Inslilulo roporl doscribo llo sociaI
suslainabiIily of lloir farning oporalion. In DicI
Tlonpson's ovn vords
Tlo sizo of a farn viII bo roslriclod vlon
llo na|or parl of vood conlroI doponds on llo
rolary loo and llo cuIlivalor. Tvo cuIlivalions
of llo 15O acros of rov crops vill a four-rov
cuIlivalor aro onougl aIong vill lay naIing
and caring for llo IivoslocI. An oigll-rov cuIli-
valor viII landIo 3OO lo 4OO acros vory oasy , bul
nol llousands of acros.. Harvosling oar corn
puls anollor roslrainl on farn sizo. IicIing 1OO
acros in llo oar is onougl. Moving and baIing
4O acros of lay l lroo or f our l inos during l lo
sunnor is onougl. LooIing aflor 75 boof covs
during caIving is onougl. Tloro is no dosiro l o
lavo 15O covs. IncIuding llo cov in llo farn
oporalion Ioops llo farn and connunilios in
baIanco. Wlon llo cov Ioavos llo farn, llo oals
and lay crops Ioavo aIso. Tlo ronaindor is rov
crop corn and soyboans villoul nanuro for for-
liIily vlicl caIIs for purclasod forliIizor and lor-
bicidos lo conlroI llo voods. As a rosuIl, farns
can gol Iargor and llo ruraI connunilios docIino.
CIoaning pons ovory lvo vooIs for a 75-sov far-
rov lo finisl log oporalion is onougl. Tlis 3OO-
acro farn vill IivoslocI is onougl and lloro is
no dosiro lo farn llo noiglbor's Iand. Tlo liglor
Iabor clargos slay in llo farnor's pocIol naIing
snaIIor farns profilabIo, and lloroforo rosuIls in
noro farn faniIios. Moro farn faniIios noan
oxpansion of scloo Is, clurclos, sorvicos and
connunilios. Tlonpson, 1997)
THE MOORE FAMILY OF TEXAS
For sovoraI gonoralions llo Mooro faniIy
raisod corn, niIo, and collon LoaIo, 2OO1). Hav-
ing lad onougl of rising produclion cosls, por-
sislonl drougll, and Iov connodily pricos, lloy
docidod lo broaI llo faniIy lradilion and svilcl
fron rov crops lo callIo. Aflor rocoiving lrain-
ing in HoIislic Managononl, Roborl Mooro and
lis son TayIor dosignod a syslon llal givos llon
Ioss porsonaI slross and Iovor ovorload cosls.
For yoars lloy ballIod I olnson grass, bornuda
grass, and crab grass in lloir collon fioIds. Nov
lloso grassos and ollors sucl as DaIIis grass and
bIuoslon aro lloir aIIios. M ooro says lloy aro
vorIing vill naluro by Iolling llo pIanls llal
vanl l o bo l loro r olurn. T loir callIo I ovo l lo
grassos and llo vido varioly aIIovs llon lo grazo
fron nid-Fobruary lo nid-Novonbor. Aflor giv-
ing up cropping, lloy incroasod lloir cov lord
fron 2OO aninaIs lo 6OO. Tloir 2OOO acros aro
dividod inlo 5O-acro paddocIs, vill aboul 2OO
load in oacl paddocI al various linos. Will
lloir cropping onlorpriso lloy lad 2O onpIoyoos
vorIing fuII lino nov llo fallor and son vorI
logollor vill ono fuII-lino onpIoyoo. Boforo
callIo, lloy vorriod aboul crop succoss and pricos
and voro oflon roIiovod |usl lo broaI ovon. Nov
IAGE 15 //AIILYING THE IRINCIILES OF SISTAINABLE FARMING
lloy can Iivo off vlal lloy naIo. TayIor says,
Wo'ro dofiniloIy lappior nov and lavo Ioss
slross. ATTRA las noro llan a dozon farnor-
roady pubIicalions llal provido dolaiIs aboul
grass farning onlorprisos and aIlornalivo nar-
Ioling of aninaI producls.
SUMMARY
SuslainabIo farning nools ocononic, onvi-
ronnonlaI, and sociaI ob|oclivos sinuIlanoousIy
bocauso lloso llroo ob|oclivos aIvays ovorIap,
lloy aro nanagod logollor. Econonic
suslainabiIily roquiros soIocling profilabIo onlor-
prisos and doing conprolonsivo financiaI pIan-
ning. SociaI suslainabiIily invoIvos Iooping
nonoy circuIaling in llo IocaI oconony, and
nainlaining or onlancing llo quaIily of Iifo of
llo farn faniIy. EnvironnonlaI suslainabiIily
invoIvos Iooping llo four ocosyslon procossos
offoclivo onorgy fIov, valor and ninoraI cycIos,
and viabIo ocosyslon dynanics) in good condi-
lion. Managing ocononics, socioly, and onviron-
nonl sinuIlanoousIy doponds on cIoar goaI-sol-
ling, offoclivo docision naIing, and noniloring
lo slay on lracI lovard llo goaI. Wiso docisions
aIIov us lo oxlracl our Iiving fron llo Iand as
llo inlorosl, vliIo prosorving llo sociaI, valor,
and soiI capilaI. As a rosuIl, llo capabiIily of llo
Iandscapo and connunily rosourcos viII nol bo
conpronisod ovor lino by our aclivilios.
Sono spocific Iand-uso slralogios lo acliovo
suslainabiIily incIudo Iooping llo soiI covorod
llrougloul llo yoar avoiding noIdboard pIov-
ing incroasing biodivorsily vlorovor possibIo
llrougl crop rolalion, inlorcropping, uso of sod
or covor crops, farnscaping, and inlogralod posl
nanagononl appIying aninaI nanuros or con-
posl divorsifying onlorprisos and pIanning f or
profil inlograling crop and aninaI onlorprisos
nininizing liIIago, connorciaI forliIizor, and
poslicidos buying suppIios IocaIIy onpIoying
IocaI poopIo and incIuding quaIily of Iifo in your
goaIs.
REFERENCES
AbduI-BaIi, Arof A. and Ioln R. ToasdaIo.
1994. Hairy volcl covor crop providos aII
llo N roquirod by lonalo crop abslracl).
Anorican Socioly of HorlicuIluraI Scionco
AnnuaI Mooling, Orogon Slalo Inivorsily,
CorvaIIis.
AIliori, M.A. and M. Liobnan. 1994. Insocl,
vood, and pIanl disoaso nanagononl in
nuIlipIo cropping syslons. In C.A.
Francis od.) MuIlipIo Cropping Syslons.
MacniIIan Conpany, Nov YorI. 383 p.
Anon. 199O. Slrip inlorcropping offors Iov-
inpul vay lo boosl yioIds. SonsibIo
AgricuIluro. May. p. 7-8.
BurIoson, Wayno and Connio BurIoson. 1994.
Rul Buslor A VisuaI GoaI Solling BooI.
SIoping Acro IubIisling Conpany.
AbsaroIoo, Monlana. 45 p.
CrulclfioId, DonaId A., GaiI A. WicIs, and
Orvin C. Burnsido. 1986. Effocl of vinlor
vloal Trilicun aoslivun) slrav nuIcl
IovoI on vood conlroI. Wood Scionco.
VoI. 34, No. 1. p. 11O-114.
Daar, SloiIa. 1986. Ipdalo Supprossing
voods vill aIIoIopallic nuIclos. Tlo
IIM Iraclilionor. ApriI. p. 1-4.
EcoIogicaI AgricuIluro Iro|ocls. No dalo.
Mixing Crop Spocios. McGiII Inivorsily,
MacdonaId Canpus. lllp//
vvv.oap.ncgiII.ca/CSI_2.lln>.
FodoraI Inloragoncy Slroan Rosloralion WorI-
ing Group. 2OO1 rov.). Slroan Corridor
Rosloralion, IrincipIos, Irocossos and
Iraclicos. Claplor 2. Slroan Corridor
Irocossos and Claraclorislics. p. 2-3.
lllp//vvv.usda.gov/
slroan_rosloralion/novlofc.lln>.
Forro, D.N. 1993. Inlogralod posl nanagononl
in vogolabIos in Massaclusolls. p. 95-1O5.
In Anno R. LosIio and Gorril W. Cuporus
ods.) SuccossfuI InpIononlalion of
Inlogralod Iosl Managononl for AgricuI-
luraI Crops. Lovis IubIislors, Boca
Ralon, FIorida.
Horno, I.E. and Maura McDornoll. No dalo.
72 Ways lo MaIo AgricuIluro SuslainabIo.
Korr Conlor Facl Slool. 2 p.
Hudson, Bornan. 1994. SoiI organic nallor and
avaiIabIo valor capacily. IournaI of SoiI
and Walor Consorvalion. VoI. 49, No. 2. p.
189-194.
//AIILYING THE IRINCIILES OF SISTAINABLE FARMING IAGE 16
The electronic version of Applying the
Principles of Sustainable Farming is
located at:
HTML
http://www.attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/trans.html
PDF
http://www.attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/PDF/
Transition.pdf
By Prcston Su!!ivan
NCAT Agricu!turc Sccia!ist
Editcd by Richard Ear!cs
Formattcd by Ash!cy Hi!!
March 2003
Anisl farns lo llrivo in loday's oconony. Tlo
SlocInan Grass Farnor. Iuno. p. 1-4.
Iarnos, Roborl. 199O. ForliIo SoiI. agAccoss,
Davis, CaIifornia. p. 51-58.
IinonloI, D., C. Harvoy, I. Rososudarno, ol aI.
1995. EnvironnonlaI and ocononic cosls
of soiI orosion and consorvalion bonofils.
Scionco. VoI. 267, No. 52O1. p. 1117-1123.
Iulnan, AIan R., Iosopl DoFranI and Iano I.
Barnos. 1983. ExpIoilalion of aIIoIopally
for vood conlroI in annuaI and poronniaI
cropping syslons. IournaI of ClonicaI
EcoIogy. VoI. 9, No. 8. p. 1OO1-1O1O.
SaIalin, IooI. 1998. You Can Farn. IoIyfaco,
Inc., Svoopo, Virginia. 48O p.
Savory, AIIan, vill Iody BullorfioId. 1999.
HoIislic Managononl. IsIand Iross.
Waslinglon, D.C. 616 p.
Sclorlz, D.L., W.C. MoIdonlavor, D.I.
Franznoior, ol aI. 1984. FioId ovaIualion
of llo offocl of soiI orosion on crop pro-
duclivily. p. 9-17. In Erosion and SoiI
Iroduclivily. Irocoodings of llo NalionaI
Synposiun on Erosion and SoiI Iroduc-
livily. Anorican Socioly of AgricuIluraI
Enginoors. Doconbor 1O-11, 1984. Nov
OrIoans, Louisiana. ASAE IubIicalion 8-
85.
SuIIivan, I.G. 1999. EarIy Warning Moniloring
for CropIands. Savory Conlor for HoIislic
Managononl. 22 p.
Tlonpson, DicI. 1997. AIlornalivos in AgricuI-
luro 1996 Roporl. Tlonpson On-Farn
Rosoarcl and llo WaIIaco Inslilulo. p. 3-4.
Trool, F.R., I.A. Hobbs, R.L. Donaluo ol aI.
1991. SoiI and Walor Consorvalion.
Ironlico- HaII, EngIovood CIiffs, NI.
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