Pesticides are common conversation when discussing the foods we consume. But what are pesticides really and how do they affect the planet? Pesticides and other harmful chemicals are used on large industrial farms to protect crops and animals from pests and disease.
In some cases, local water sources can be penetrated by the chemicals and can negatively affect species inhabiting the farm. For large farms, chemicals are often used to prevent pests and disease as they are growing large quantities of food and do not often have the time to service their crops properly.
On the other hand, as small farmers often service their direct community, they can grow a wide variety of crops with safer controls in place. By using crop rotation, intercropping, and companion planting, local farmers can prevent pests and disease with a more natural solution.
Crop rotation primarily focuses on the health of the soil by optimizing the nutrients, while combating pests and weeds. By planting different crops on the same plot of land, you allow your plants to return nutrients to your soil in a natural way. Different plants have different nutritional needs. So if a farmer plants the same crop in the same land every year, they continuously draw from the same soil.
Pests and diseases can make themselves permanent homes where they would have a guaranteed food source – making chemicals and pesticides necessary to maintain the crops. By switching the land that crops grow from, you improve the soil health by using different root structures while keeping pests away.
Similar to crop rotation, intercropping is growing two or more crops at once on the same land. Intercropping is a common practice for farmers looking to reduce the number of weeds growing on the land as intercropping naturally lowers the ability for weeds to grow. The crops you mix together need to meet a number of requirements such as height, rooting ability, and nutrient requirements to ensure you successfully intercrop. The main benefits of intercropping are increasing the rate of crop production while also controlling the rate of weed growth on the land.
Companion planting is the practice of growing plants together for mutual benefit. There are many benefits to companion planting, which includes the attraction of insects and pollinators, while also fending off predators and wildlife. Planting crops close together helps improve the nutrient supply in the soil.
When done strategically, companion planting also allows certain fruits and vegetables to grow stronger by providing shade (taller crops) for smaller crops which do not do well under the scorching sun in the summertime. Companion planting is great for diverse gardens with multiple fruit or vegetables being produced. So instead of using chemicals to keep pests away, you can have a healthier garden with diverse crops.
By using natural forms of pest and disease control, farmers can produce healthier crops that are then consumed by the community. This not only helps the individuals consuming the food, but also the environment around them. There are many reasons to shop local as you may know – pest and disease control is another reason to consider shopping local instead of purchasing from big corporations who are not as caring about what they produce and how it affects the environment.
At Green Schools Green Future, we support clean farming and the safe production of the foods we consume. Do your research and ensure the food you are purchasing is from clean farming and see the benefits it provides to your physical and mental being. By using natural forms, we can protect both the food and the planet. So shop local and start making a difference today!
Blog Image Credit: Jake Gard
Written By: Cassandra Briscoe