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The term conservation can quickly conjure up images of "greenies" and widely differing political views. Conservation generally means the act of preserving from injury, decay, or loss, as well as careful management and protection of natural resources [Wilkes, Krebs, 1987]. In 1967 The American National Advisory Commission on Food and Fibre defined conservation as "the effort needed to maintain the productive capacity of the resource" [Simms, 1970, p.142].

The relationship between conventional agriculture and conservation farming is not clear cut for conservation farming has a weak philosophical base with covert and often implied ideologies. Conservation farming represents a group of generally held beliefs and assumptions and involves the adoption of a complex array of practices and not just a single change in one practice [Kohnke, Bertrand, 1959]. An early definition of conservation farming was the "making the most efficient use of the land over a long period of time" [Kohnke, Bertrand [1959, p.4]. Although 'exhaustive' farming may appear to yield more cash than conservation farming, this would only be for a relatively short period [Kohke, Bertrand, 1959]. Kohke and Bertrand's [1959] original work concurred with Cornish and Pratley [eds 1987] and relates farm income to soil conservation measures.

Roberts [1994] suggests that conservation farming is "a system of using the land within its long-term capacity. The aim is to conserve the soil, water, fauna and flora of the land, while reaping social and economic benefits from it" [Roberts, 1994, p.222]. Kohnke and Bertrand [1959] imply that conservation agriculture is permanent agriculture, with the underlying theme to the future including medium to long term planning combined with the ongoing need to develop a consciousness of stewardship of the soil. A modern view of conservation farming involves a systems concept and identifies it as "a farming system that creates a suitable environment for the growing crop and emphasises conservation of soil and water resources, consistent with sound economic practices" [eds Cornish, Pratley, 1987, p.438]. In its broadest sense it includes crop, pest, disease, weed and pasture management and the management of a farm as an integrated system [eds Cornish, Pratley, 1987].

Specific management practices

To give a pragmatic view showing the practical application of conservation farming methods [Bock, 1995; Acton, Gregorich, 1995] a number of unique characteristic management decisions and practices will be considered. For instance;

  • Fodder conservation
  • Crop rotation
  • Contour and minimum tillage
  • Trees used for shelter and agroforestry
  • Integrated Pest Management
  • Whole farm planning
It should be noted that due to the complexity and rapid adoption of some conservation practices, some latitude has been taken in regard to specific management decisions and fodder 'conservation' and the current pinnacle of land use and conservation methods in Whole Farm Planning [WFP].

In summary, Conservation farming would appear to be continuously changing to meet farmers needs and with new cultivation technology and changes in crop genotype it will be possible "to exploit the new environments created by conservation farming practices" [eds Cornish, Pratley, 1987, p.355]. This expletive use of 'conservation' type practice reinforces Allsopp's [1972] pessimistic view that industrial man has moved outside a balanced biological system that includes recycling and has become the dominant predator upon the material substance of the earth and also upon other species, even under the pretence of 'conservation'. Conservation of the environment is essential to the agrarian economy, but in reality it is a rearguard action and only a stop-gap measure. It would be very beneficial if humanity was creative and not predatory, for conservation may not be enough [Allsopp, 1972].

The information contained in this publication has been formulated in good faith, the contents do not take into account all the factors which need to be considered before putting that information into practice. Accordingly, no person should rely on anything contained herein as a substitute for specific professional advice.
S.O.S. Rev 9.2 All rights reserved. Contact: www.healthyag.com © Gwyn Jones 2001

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