5 Subsistence Farming Practices That You Might Not Know

There are many different types of farming practices around the world. A subsistence farmer, however, uses farming practices that have been used since before modern society was created. These techniques aren’t usually sustainable in today’s world; however, they can help get food on the table without spending too much money. Here are five subsistence farming practices that you might not know about.

1) Zero tillage
Zero tillage is a farming method that reduces erosion by leaving crop stubble in place after harvest. The natural process of residue break down makes soil more fertile and locks in carbon, thus fighting global warming. It’s also a farming technique to protect against weeds because, with no bare soil exposed to light, they can’t grow. Lastly, zero tillage prevents livestock from damaging young plants as they would on traditional tilled land. On a farmstead using zero tillage, seeds are sown directly into crops or transplanted into furrows between crops where they grow without any disturbance. The resulting plants are healthier than those grown on tilled fields, making them less susceptible to disease and pests. They also have deeper root systems than conventionally grown crops which means they need less water, fertilizer and pesticides.

2) Flooding Fields
One way that farmers have kept their land fertile over hundreds of years is by flooding their fields for short periods of time. Flooding helps to flood debris and let new life rise up from within, which means plants can flourish. This practice is also used by fish farmers and poultry farms to keep crops fresh and thriving. When an animal farmed for food rises in number, it can lead to problems—and there are plenty of non-organic family farms that rely on inhumane conditions to get their products on store shelves. But when done correctly, subsistence farming practices help ensure a healthy ecosystem while still producing high-quality products. For example, Highland cows are often raised on small subsistence farms in Scotland—the cows roam freely around open grasslands where they eat grasses and herbs; they’re not given any antibiotics or hormones; they don’t live inside or confined to pens or cages; and their milk is sold as organic.

3) Using human waste as fertilizer
For human-powered farming to scale, communities must find ways to incorporate waste into their environment—whether it’s turning human and animal waste into fertilizer or using toilet water to flush fields and crops. When done well, these practices can have significant positive environmental impacts. For example, vertical farms are known for having low carbon footprints because they don’t rely on fossil fuels. They also use less land than traditional agriculture: a single acre of vertical farm can produce up to 10 times more food than an acre of traditional farmland. Additionally, indoor farms use significantly less water than conventional agriculture: according to Columbia University Water Center estimates, a pound of lettuce takes about 1,000 gallons of water to grow; in contrast, an indoor farm uses only 20 gallons per pound.

4) Intercropping
Fish farming and intercropping, particularly in aquaculture, is especially important for subsistence farmers. By using these methods to grow their food, they can boost their income and reduce water usage by avoiding using pesticides. It’s also an environmentally friendly way to produce food as it helps sustain soil fertility and prevent run-off from fertilizers into natural waterways. It’s one of many regenerative agriculture practices that help improve crop production while conserving energy and reducing environmental impact.
No-till: No till (or zero till) refers to a method of growing crops without disturbing or tilling up topsoil—which not only prevents erosion but reduces fossil fuel use because you don’t have to use heavy machinery or burn fossil fuels like gas or diesel. It also helps reduce soil degradation and water pollution from fertilizer runoff. In some cases, no-till farming can also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by sequestering carbon in soil, which is an important way that agriculture contributes to climate change mitigation efforts.

5) Feed the soil, not the plant
As opposed to industrialized and commercial farms, subsidence farmers focus on growing healthy soil. Using organic farming methods such as crop rotation, composting, and permaculture, they keep soil rich in nutrients to grow nutritious plants. These farmers maintain an ecosystem within their farmland by growing legumes and green manure crops that act as natural fertilizers for their fields. Legumes convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that can be used by other plants. Green manure crops like alfalfa are grown specifically to be tilled back into the soil where they’ll provide additional nutrients for future plantings. The result is better-tasting food that’s high in vitamins and minerals—and doesn’t require expensive synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.

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