Integrated agriculture, also known as integrated farming, is a farming system that aims to combine different aspects of agricultural production into a unified whole, in order to maximize yields, minimize costs, and promote sustainable farming practices.
It is the system which comprises an interrelated set of enterprises with crop activity as a base and provides recycling of waste. In this system, nothing is wasted because waste material is recycled and used as input for another enterprise. Integrated agricultural production systems are different from dynamic agricultural production systems because they feature synergistic resource transfers between various enterprises due to their interactions in space and/or time. For example, an integrated crop-livestock production unit can use manure from livestock to fertilize crop land and feed grain or crop residues to livestock, creating a mutually beneficial relationship between the two enterprises.
Integrated agriculture involves the integration of crops and livestock, along with other farm enterprises such as forestry and fisheries, in a way that ensures that the entire farming system operates efficiently and sustainably. This involves using natural processes and ecological principles to create a farming system that is resilient, productive, and environmentally sound.
Concept of Integrated Agriculture
In the mid-1990s, “Integrated Agriculture” emerged in response to market demand for a new integrated management system that could meet quality and environmental requirements. While not as strict as organic farming, Integrated Agriculture aimed to mitigate the negative consequences of conventional farming through various measures. The Integrated Agriculture system sought to combine different aspects of farming, including crop and livestock production, forestry, and fisheries, in a way that optimized yields, minimized costs, and promoted sustainable practices. This approach involved the use of diverse agricultural practices, such as crop rotations, cover cropping, and integrated pest management, to promote soil health, conserve resources, and reduce the use of synthetic inputs.
The concept of this system focuses on the following points
- Recycling of by-products
- Reduction in Cost of Production
- Increase Production Per Unit Area
- Increase in Farm Income
The first in a series of planned workshops to develop principles for integrated agricultural systems was held in Mandan, ND in November 2004. At the first workshop, a series of factors influencing the development of agricultural systems were identified.
key Principles of Integrated Agriculture
- Diversity: Integrated agriculture involves growing a variety of crops and raising a variety of animals on the farm, as well as incorporating other types of agricultural activities such as agroforestry and aquaculture.
- Recycling: Waste products from one aspect of the farm, such as animal manure, are used to fertilize crops or feed other animals.
- Integration: All aspects of the farm are integrated and interdependent so that they work together to create a self-sustaining system.
- Conservation: Integrated agriculture aims to conserve natural resources such as soil, water, and biodiversity, and to minimize the use of chemical inputs.
Integrated agriculture is becoming increasingly popular as a way to promote sustainable agriculture and to produce food in a way that is both environmentally and economically sound.
We are doing agriculture for centuries then the question arises
Why do we need Integrated Farming?
The answer to this question can be summarized in some lines.
- Due to the declining Agriculture Growth Rate, we must promote sustainable agricultural methods to protect soil and water.
- Failure of crops due to stress and environmental factors such as rainfall variability and temperature fluctuations, overall yield decreases which causes a reduction in Food products.
- Owing to skyrocketing population in the world, agricultural land is being converted into residential areas and it effects directly on agriculture because less area for cultivation means less production.
- Increasing Environmental Pollution
- Depletion of Ground Water Table
- Increased Cost of Production
- Low Farm Income
Keeping these all problems in mind, the only way to overcome losses and obtain high yields is integrated agriculture or integrated farming. This farming system is also useful in conservation agriculture.
Benefits of Integrated Agriculture:
The following benefits have been identified as positive outcomes of implementing an integrated farming system:
- Increased food production to meet the demand of our rapidly growing population.
- Higher farm income through proper recycling of residues and related components.
- Sustainable soil fertility and productivity through organic waste recycling.
- Regular and stable income from linked activities such as egg, milk, mushroom, vegetable, and honey production.
- Inclusion of biogas to help alleviate the predicted energy crisis.
- Enhanced sustainability through the effective utilization of by-products from linked components, which can promote soil health and sustain soil potential for crop production.
- Production of balanced food by linking different components of the integrated farming system, which can provide a range of essential nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. This can help mitigate malnutrition among farmers.
- Pollution abatement through the recycling of waste from crop-based activities, thereby protecting and conserving the environment.
The mixed farming system is designed to recycle all waste generated, ensuring that very little goes to waste. The waste produced by one component of the system is utilized as a resource by another, creating a self-sufficient cycle where nothing is discarded. By operating in this way, the mixed farming system reduces its reliance on fossil fuels, as it requires minimal external inputs. This sustainable approach to farming promotes efficient resource use and minimizes waste, resulting in a more resilient and environmentally responsible system.
Types of Integrated Farming
There are different types of integrated farming which are as below
Crop-livestock farming system
The practice integrates the production of animals along with crops, forages and grassland.
Crop-livestock-fisheries farming system
Production of fish and livestock with crop production comes under this farming system.
Crop-livestock-fisheries-poultry farming system
Crop-fisheries-duckery farming system
Production of fish and ducks in rice fields or ponds can double the income of farmers. Manure from fish is taken up by ducks and duck manure is good for crop health and production.
Crop-fisheries-vermicomposting farming system
Vermicomposting is another excellent way of increasing soil fertility and health of the soil as adds organic material to the soil.
Agroforestry farming system
Planting trees with the main crop reduces the chances of erosion and reduces wind speed. Fruit trees in this system increase the net income of farmers.
Raring of honey bees in fields increases the rate of pollination which ultimately increases the yield. Honey from bees also provides income benefits.
Limitations of Integrated Agriculture
Besides benefits, there are some limitations too regarding integrated agriculture. These problems include
- Lack of awareness about sustainable farming
- Unavailability of marketing
- Lack of timely availability of inputs
- Less education of farmers
- Lack of Govt. Policies
Objectives of integrated agriculture are to integrate different production systems like dairy poultry, livestock, and fisheries with agricultural crop production as a base and to increase Farm Resource Efficiency. Moreover, the maintenance of environmental quality and ecological sustainability is also an objective of this farming system.
There are different enterprises which suit different areas and conditions. In dryland areas raring of dairy, poultry, and goats and the practice of agroforestry can be useful in many aspects while in wetland areas production of fish in rice fields is the best method of integrated agriculture.
Due to the continuous depletion of natural resources and increasing population, their conservation and sustained production are necessary for food security. Integrated farming holds a special position in sustainable agriculture, as in this system, nothing is wasted. It is a promising approach for increased production and profitability through recycling. It can be a way to use available resources more efficiently and can contribute significantly to uplifting rural life with increased farm income.
Muhammad Abdullah Saleem1, Asif Iqbal1, Muhammad Amir Iqbal2, Umair Gull1, Rana Nadeem Abbas1, Safdar Ali1, Wajeeh-Ur-Rehman1, Abid Shehzad1, Shawaiz Iqbal1, Usama Bin Khalid1, Waqar Akram3, Muhammad Naveed Tahir4, Sanan Javed4, Iqra Akram5
1Department of Agronomy, Faculty of Agriculture, UAF
2Department of Agronomy, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Poonch, Rawalakot, Pakistan
3Department of Plant Pathology, Faculty of Agriculture, UAF
4Institute of Soil and Environmental Sciences, UAF
5Department of Botany, Faculty of Sciences, UAF
UAF: University of Agriculture, Faisalabad