The Global Farmer Network recently asked some members about their views on sustainability in agriculture. For the second consecutive week we’re highlighting a response from a GFN Board member. Roberto Peiretti from Argentina farms along with his wife Cintia in the Cordoba Province. Roberto is internationally recognized as a leader in No-Till, or zero tillage, farming and is a founding member of Aapresid, the Argentinian No–Till Farmers Association.
*English is a second language for most GFN members and responses may have been lightly edited.
Global Farmer Network Board member – Roberto Peiretti, Cordoba Province, Argentina
Question: What is your definition of sustainable farming?
Answer: A farming system can be considereded as a sustainable one ever since it shows and demostrates in practice its ability to simultaneously match and satisfy the three main axis for which the concept of sustainability is pillared on: the economic; the social; the environmental. In practice it is normally related to conservation agriculture principles implemented as the No-Till System, integrated pest and weed management, soil health concept, “Carbon Farming”, efficent water management, etc.
Question: What farming practices are you using on your farm today that helps the sustainability of your farming operation and the soil that you are farming on?
Answer: I am farming my soils under the No Till System, along with crop rotation, cover or service crops, and all type of modern technologies as far as they offer a positive and reliable ROI [return on investment] not only in the short [term] but also in the medium and long range been which is closelly related to the concept of adding to the system sustainability.
Question: Where do you get information about sustainable farming practices that are appropriate for your farm?
Answer: Mainly from farmers organizations; by sharing through farmers to farmers communication, also “Field Days”or demonstrations. Experimental Stations delivered information and experiences as well as basic information derived from universities and research people. Private companies many times play a significative role in this process. To change or introduce any major new technology or change on my farming operation, I normally test them in small areas, and once I feel confortable and confident with the benefits of the change or the new technology (a kind of trial and error process) I gradually start scaling it up within my farm.
Question: How do you determine what practices work best on your farm?
Answer: Interacting with other farmers and also permanently searching on the existing and offered new technologies and alternatives ways to do things within experimental stations, private companies, experimental stations, Universities, etc. and once I detect them I somehow follow the process described on previous [question and answer].
Question: Are there specific technologies that will support the sustainability of your farming operation?
Answer: Since farming is equal to manage a very “Complex System” to evolve and make progress we always need several different new technologies derived from many different type and areas of knowledge and science fields. The No Till system, the biotechnology, the discovery and development of new molecules for different purposes that protect our crops from insect, deseases etc., as well as new strategies to “feed the soil” as “the best way to fertilize a crop” (this later is linked to the concept of soil health), constitute just some of the examples.
Question: Do you share sustainable farming practices that you use with other farmers? If yes, how?
Answer: Yes, I frequently offer my knowledge and experience acquired from my farm and always have received a lot from partners. I very frequently received farmers and delegations from my country as well as from other countries.
I am convinced that this is the best, quickest and “safest way to avoid errors” when adopting new technologies. I have participated many times as presenter in all types of meetings related to agriculture – nationally and internationally – offering my knowledge and experience and always acquiring and learning a lot from my partners by interacting, discussing and interchanging with them.
Private companies related to agricuture as well as Governments or official institutions in some cases, play an important role at promoting, financing, organizing or partnering or supporting farmers initiatives, meetings, field days, demostration plots etc. These mechanisms regularly become a very effective way to facilitate farmer to farmer connections and hence to widespread knowledge and alternatives related with the succesfull adoption of new technologies.