What is an Integrated farming System (IFS) and How far is it helpful in sustaining agricultural production?

Updated December 20, 2022

Everyone is familiar with a fact that the population is increasing at a rapid speed in India which caused declination in per capita availability of land in the country. The operational farm holding in India is declining as the population is increasing and the land is being used more for the purpose of shelter and different other constructions rather than farming. And practically, it is not possible that the land for agriculture can be expanded horizontally. Therefore, acceptance of Integrated farming System has become necessary

There are several such resources like water, fossil fuels, lands, forest products, etc. which are getting depleted and causing harm to the environment as human beings use these resources carelessly for development. So, for Sustainable development in agriculture, it is must include an integrated farming system (IFS) with efficient soil, water, crop, and pest management practices, which are environmentally friendly and cost-effective. Sustainable development is the idea that human societies must live and meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs OR Sustainable development in the simplest way as, economic development that is conducted without depletion of natural resources.

What is an Integrated farming System?

There are different ways to describe integrating farming system but according to the International Organization of Biological Control (IOBC), Integrated Farming is a farming system where high-quality organic food, fiber, feed, and renewable energy are produced by using resources such as soil, air, water, and nature as well as regulating factors to farm sustainably and with as little polluting inputs as possible. The organic crop means crops produced without using enhancers or without using industrialized agriculture. Organic farming has some serious benefits as it reduces the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides, cost-effective, eco-friendly to nature, and helps in sustaining the fertility of the soil.

The integrated farming system lies somewhere in between the primitive and the modern farming practices. Integrated farming is a system that tries to mimic nature’s principle where not only crops but various plants, animals, poultry form a diverse ecological system which in turn helps to improve productivity and sustainability. These flora and fauna are combined in such a way that each element helps another element i.e. waste from one is a resource for others.

The basic principle is to enhance the ecological diversity – by choosing the appropriate cropping methodology with mixed cropping, crop rotation, crop combination, and intercropping so that there is less competition for water, nutrition, and space. A multi-story arrangement is followed for proper utilization of space e.g. a poultry farm on the upper level with a fish farm on a lower level where the waste from poultry will feed the fish on a lower level.

IFS is a labor-intensive system it keeps the farmer indulged in the farm productively throughout the year. IFS induces collective purchasing of inputs and collective marketing of produce among farmers which in turn leads to good productivity and profit margins as well. It takes 3-4 years to establish a well-integrated farm with market linkages to ensure the livelihood of a family. If we have large numbers of such farms in a village then we have also plenty of business opportunities and employment scope.

Major components of the Integrated Farming System (IFS)

Stabilizes income streams are approached by Integrated Farming Systems (IFS) through natural resource management and livelihood diversification.  Fish and livestock cultivation along with general farming practices in which both enterprises support each other, could be the best example of integrated farming. The waste of one enterprise becomes the input of another in IFS, for making better use of resources and reducing the use of chemical enhancers. Crop residues can be used for animal feed, while manure from livestock can enhance agricultural productivity, In the integrated crop-livestock farming system,.

Crops, livestock, birds, and trees (major components of the Integrated Farming System)

Crops may have subsystems like monochrome, legumes (pulses), oilseeds,  multi-tier crops of cereals, mixed/intercrop, forage, etc. Livestock components maybe a goat, sheep, poultry, milch cow,  bees. Tree components may include fruit trees, timber, fodder, and fuel.

Different agronomic approaches (for increasing the overall sustainability and  productivity of IFS)

Adoption of improved cropping system according to the rainfall and soil moisture availability. Selection of suitable grain crop species, tree species that supply pods/leaves for a longer period or throughout the year. The surplus fodder leaves, crop residues, etc. during the rainy season should be preserved as silage/hay for the lean season (summer).

How can the Integrated Farming System help in sustainable agriculture production

If there is an option for you to choose between ‘the food that is grown more naturally’ and ‘food that is enhanced by spraying it with pesticides or applying chemical fertilizers’, you would prefer the later one to eat. In fact, Natural food that is free of chemicals and artificial enhancements would be the preference for most people. But, unfortunately, we don’t have such an option of choosing between natural food and chemically enhanced food because like every sector, the agricultural sector has also moved towards commercialization. So, the majority of the food we consume is produced using industrialized agriculture, which is a type of agriculture where large quantities of crops and livestock are produced through industrial techniques for the purpose of sale. A variety of chemicals and artificial enhancements, such as pesticides, fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms are the basic components for such types of agriculture Practices. Using chemicals and artificial enhancements not only decreases the fertility of the soil but also causing water pollution. Practicing such type of agriculture requires a huge amount of fossil fuels and large machines to manage the farmland, which is not only costly but also harmful to nature. Although industrialized agriculture has made it possible to produce large quantities of food, due to the negative aspects of this technique, there has been a shift towards sustainable agriculture.

Sustainable agriculture includes an integrated farming system which is a type of agriculture that focuses on producing long-term crops and livestock while having minimal effects on the environment. Such type of agricultural practices creates a fine balance between the need for food production and the preservation of the ecological system within the environment. As you know that A variety of chemicals and artificial enhancements, such as pesticides, fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms is used in industrialized agriculture and these things create an imbalance in the ecosystem within the environment.  Therefore, apart from producing food, there are several other goals associated with sustainable agriculture, including reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides, conserving water, and promoting biodiversity in crops grown and maintaining balance in the ecosystem. Sustainable agriculture not only focuses on maintaining the economic stability of farms but also helping farmers improve their techniques and quality of life as it reduces the risk involved in farming especially due to a crash in market price as well as natural calamities.

Various farming strategies are used to make agriculture more sustainable. But the most common techniques amongst them are to grow plants that can create their own nutrients to reduce the use of fertilizers and rotating crops in fields, which minimizes pesticide use because the crops are changing frequently.  Mixing crops, which reduces the risk of a disease destroying a whole crop and decreases the need for herbicides and pesticides, is another common technique to make agriculture more sustainable.  Utilize water management systems, such as drip irrigation that reduces the wastage of water, is also used by Sustainable farmers also

With various benefits, One of the major benefits of an integrated farming system (IFS)  is it helps to reduce the risk involved in farming especially due to crash market price as well as natural calamities. The best example to support the above statement is the Phalin cyclone. During Phalin cyclone in Odisha, the paddy crop at the flowering stage was affected severely.  A household with advanced agronomic management tools coupled with livestock, jute, fishery suffered a loss only between 8 – 28% but households with only farming components had a 100 % loss of crop.

Thus, we can say in observing the above statement that the Integrated farming system is key to sustainable agriculture production. We keep posting valuable articles for exams of PSC and UPSC Civil Services which could be equally useful for other competitive exams like Bank PO, Staff Selection Commission, State Public Services Commission, and various others. So, keep visiting the site Career101.in to get more valuable study material and do share this article to let others benefit from.

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