One of the essential tenets of permaculture is sustainability. But what does it mean? What is sustainable agriculture? It is a way of understanding agricultural principles and methods, understanding the relationships and connection between organisms which make up an ecosystem and comprehending the ecosystem services. All of this is crucial so that a method of agriculture can be utilized which does not endanger the underlying ecosystem nor does it rely on the input of new resources.
If agriculture is practiced in a sustainable way, it can produce results over a long time, providing humans with food while enhancing environmental quality at the same time. Furthermore, the level of natural resources will not deteriorate or at least; the non-renewable resources will be used in a most efficient way. In the end, the level of quality of life of the farmers will be increased, and the society as a whole will benefit. Permaculture experts like Vladislav Davidzon are strong advocates of sustainable agriculture.
Natural resources and farming
Sustainable agriculture focuses on the question of resources. Unlike modern, intensive agricultural methods which rely on heavy fertilization, large machinery, and single crop farming, sustainable farming seeks to avoid damage to the ecosystem. For example, excessive tilling of the soil leads to long term damage, just like irrigation without adequate drainage does.
Sustainable farmers want to replenish the soil frequently so that it can keep its productivity, but while minimizing the use of non-renewable resources. These include natural gas and mineral ores needed to produce nitrogen and, consequently, fertilizer. Farmers seek to find alternative sources of nitrogen, which cannot be exhausted. These include waste recycling, growing legume plants which symbiotically connect with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, utilizing the Haber process and so on.
Another crucial resource for sustainable farming is water. Irrigation systems need to be properly maintained and managed to secure longevity and replenishment. If not, water becomes a non-renewable resource. Water, along with soil, is a resource which can be manipulated the most by human intervention. Other important factors for farming are the sun, air, and nutrients.