A sustainable agriculture is a system of agriculture that will last. It is an agriculture that maintains its productivity over the long run. Sustainable agriculture is both a philosophy and a system of farming. It has its roots in a set of values that reflects an awareness of both ecological and social realities. It involves design and management procedures that work with natural processes to conserve all resources, minimize waste and environmental damage, while maintaining or improving farm profitability. Working with natural soil processes is of particular importance. Sustainable agriculture systems are designed to take maximizes advantage of existing soil nutrient and water cycles, energy flows, and soil organisms for food production. As well, such systems aim to produce food that is nutritious, without being contaminated with products that might harm human health.
In practice such systems have tended to avoid the use of synthetically compounded fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators, and livestock feed additives. These substances are rejected on the basis of their dependence on non-renewable resources, disruption potential within the environment, and their potential impacts on wildlife, livestock and human health. For example, synthetically compounded fertilizers and pesticides generally suppress biological activity in the soil. Some growth regulators and feed additives are implicated in retarding the decomposition of manure and are potential human health hazards. Instead, sustainable agriculture systems rely on crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, legumes, green manures, off-farm organic wastes, appropriate mechanical cultivation, and mineral bearing rocks to maximize soil biological activity, and to maintain soil fertility and productivity. Natural, biological, and cultural controls are used to manage pests, weeds and diseases.
The idea of sustainable agriculture has been around a long time. Since the very first crop was sown and animal was penned, farmers have tried to ensure that their land produces a similar or increasing yield of products year after back-breaking year; recent attempts to popularise the concept build on this tradition.