Integrated farming is an agricultural approach that involves combining crop production, fish farming, and livestock production, creating integrated biosystems. Waste from one part of the system becomes a crucial input in other components in the system. For instance, manure from sheep can be applied in plants to enhance soil fertility while maize stalks are used as fodder for sheep and cattle.
Integrated farming enhances production, minimizes costs, and increases income. Farmers utilize the resources to increase production in the entire system and helps them eliminate waste either from crops, livestock or from their households. Besides, it reduces the need for chemicals since it promotes biological pest control and sustainable preventive cultivation methods.
Factors affecting integrated farming
Some of the factors affecting integrated farming include:
- The availability of land, labor, and resources
- Management skills of the farmer
- Ecological conditions in the selected region
- The nature and cost of integration
- The current level in which the available resources have been utilized
What is the nature of integration?
To create a stable and sustainable farm, integrated farming incorporates various components such as forestry, livestock keeping, horticulture, and agriculture. It integrates crop production into other activities such as biogas production, mushroom cultivation, poultry and fish farming, and cattle rearing. The integrated system aims at enhancing resource integration, minimizing management costs, increasing diversification and farm productivity, and enhancing market linkages.
Most small-scale farmers are embracing integrated farming approaches to improve the quantity and quality of food produced, increase their cash income, and diversify their farm production using the available resources. It takes 3 to 4 years to implement a fully functional integrated farming system with well-established market linkages.
A case example of how an integrated farming system should be
General crop production, livestock keeping, forestry, fish farming are easy to integrate. Crops such as maize, sorghum, bananas, corn, and sugarcane perform well in most parts of the country. After harvesting, wastes, stalks, and leaves can either be composted to form manure or chopped into very small pieces and used as animal feeds for cattle, sheep, poultry, and fish.
Organic manures provided by chicken, sheep, cattle, and pigs can be used as organic fertilizer for the crops and aquatic plants near the fish pond or to feed plankton. Aquatic plants, plankton, and crop wastes from the farm are then used to feed the fish. Silt from fish ponds contains a wide range of nutrients and can act as an important fertilizer for the crops. In some cases, especially in drier areas, water from fishponds can be used for irrigation. Farmers can plant trees around their gardens which provide firewood and act as windbreakers, protecting crops against strong winds.
An integrated crop-livestock farming system
Why you should use integrated farming systems
Integrated farming is a farming approach with unlimited benefits. There are various reasons why you should adopt this farming practice which include:
- It promotes sustainability
- It increases productivity and profitability from crops and livestock
- It enhances diversity in the farm and creates a judicious mix of agricultural components such as crop production and fish, dairy, pig, and poultry farming
- It increases utilization of resources
- It enhances input-output efficiency
- It promotes the utilization of resources
- It creates a continuous flow of income
- It solves fodder and energy challenges since it improves the production of biogas
- Integrated farming promotes agroforestry and enhances environmental safety
- Besides, it makes it easy to adopt new technologies