Saturday, 15 July 2006

Toward Sustainable Farming Systems in the Republic of Moldova.

Boris P. Boincean, Reearch Institute of Field Crops "Selectia", Calea Iesilor, 28, Balti, Moldova and John W. Doran, Univ of Nebraska and USDA-ARS Cooperator, 116 Keim Hall, East Campus, Lincoln, NE 68583.

Agriculture of Moldova isn't sustainable from economic, ecological, energetic and social points of view. One of the main obstacles in changing the modern conventional system of agriculture is the externalization of their negative ecological and social consequences. The increased rates of soil erosion, pollution of water, soils, agricultural products, the negative influence of contaminated and degraded environment on the health of people don't influence the economic activity of farmers at the moment. Who will ultimately pay for this and how long can such a situation last? This situation results from a reductionistic (simplistic) approach to farm management that, unfortunately, also dominates agricultural science. Farmers in our region began to realize the perspectiveless of previous technogenic way of intensification in agriculture after the collapse of the former USSR and the move towards land privatization. Nonrenewable sources of energy (oil, natural gas, etc.) are expensive now and prices will increase in the future. Moldova doesn't have its own sources of fossil fuel and must import them from abroad. The advantages of transition to a more sustainable farming system, if only from an economic point of view, are evident. But, both our's and the world's experience are recognizing the ecological and social advantages of alternative farming systems based on lower consumption of nonrenewable sources of energy. The new paradigm of sustainable development of agriculture in Moldova is based on more intensive turnover of nutrients and energy on each farm using local renewable sources. In this way Moldovan farmers can provide the nutrients and energy inputs to produce food without the purchase of costly chemicals that they cannot afford. To be sustainable, farming systems should include the following considerations: 1) Landscape particularities of each place, providing a harmonious balance between arable lands, pastures, forests, ponds, etc. The framework of shelterbelts for the steppe region of Moldova is definitely important. 2) To provide an optimal ratio between crop husbandry and animal husbandry on each farm. 3) To assure the restoration of soil fertility and mainly the compensation of losses of soil organic matter as the integral index of soil fertility. 4) For agrosystems, the output of nutrient and energy is higher than the input. According to experimental data obtained in the long-term experiments of the Research Institute of Field Crops "Selectia" (Balti) with different crop rotations and permanent crops (the duration more than 40 years) the annual deficit of energy amounts to 39-84%. The highest deficit of energy is typical for black fallow and the lowest for crop rotation with perennial leguminous crops. The "crop rotation effect" (the difference between yields of crops in crop rotations and permanent crops) is higher on unfertilized plots than on fertilized plots, especially for winter wheat and sugar beets. This was one of the reasons for narrow specialization in agriculture during the technogenic intensification of agriculture in the former USSR. The share of soil fertility is higher in crop rotation than in monoculture. The better the crop rotation, the higher the share of yield created from soil fertility. On better soils higher yields can be obtained with less expenditures of nonrenewable sources of energy. From an agronomic point of view, the ecological management of soil provides good conditions for the maintenance and transformation of soil organic matter and is one of the key factors for sustainable development of agriculture.

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