Good Agricultural Practices for Selected Agricultural Components
- The physical and chemical properties and functions, organic matter and biological activity of the soil are fundamental to sustaining agricultural production and determine, in their complexity, soil fertility and productivity. Appropriate soil management aims to maintain and improve soil productivity by improving the availability and plant uptake of water and nutrients through enhancing soil biological activity, replenishing soil organic matter and soil moisture, and minimizing losses of soil, nutrients, and agrochemicals through erosion, runoff and leaching into surface or ground water. Though soil management is generally undertaken at field/farm level, it affects the surrounding area or catchment due to off-site impacts on runoff, sediments, nutrients movement, and mobility of livestock and associated species including predators, pests and biocontrol agents.
- Good practices related to soil include maintaining or improving soil organic matter through the use of soil carbon-build up by appropriate crop rotations, manure application, pasture management and other land use practices, rational mechanical and/or conservation tillage practices; maintaining soil cover to provide a conducive habitat for soil biota, minimizing erosion losses by wind and/or water; and application of organic and mineral fertilizers and other agro-chemicals in amounts and timing and by methods appropriate to agronomic, environmental and human health requirements.
- Agriculture carries a high responsibility for the management of water resources in quantitative and qualitative terms. Careful management of water resources and efficient use of water for rainfed crop and pasture production, for irrigation where applicable, and for livestock, are criteria for GAP. Efficient irrigation technologies and management will minimize waste and will avoid excessive leaching and salinization. Water tables should be managed to prevent excessive rise or fall.
- Good practices related to water will include those that maximize water infiltration and minimize unproductive efflux of surface waters from watersheds; manage ground and soil water by proper use, or avoidance of drainage where required; improve soil structure and increase soil organic matter content; apply production inputs, including waste or recycled products of organic, inorganic and synthetic nature by practices that avoid contamination of water resources; adopt techniques to monitor crop and soil water status, accurately schedule irrigation, and prevent soil salinization by adopting water-saving measures and re-cycling where possible; enhance the functioning of the water cycle by establishing permanent cover, or maintaining or restoring wetlands as needed; manage water tables to prevent excessive extraction or accumulation; and provide adequate, safe, clean watering points for livestock.
Crop and Fodder Production
v) Crop and fodder production involves the selection of annual and perennial crops, their cultivars and varieties, to meet local consumer and market needs according to their suitability to the site and their role within the crop rotation for the management of soil fertility, pests and diseases, and their response to available inputs. Perennial crops are used to provide long-term production options and opportunities for intercropping. Annual crops are grown in sequences, including those with pasture, to maximize the biological benefits of interactions between species and to maintain productivity. Harvesting of all crop and animal products removes their nutrient content from the site and must ultimately be replaced to maintain long-term productivity.
vi) Good practices related to crop and fodder production will include those that select cultivars and varieties on an understanding of their characteristics, including response to sowing or planting time, productivity, quality, market acceptability and nutritional value, disease and stress resistance, edaphic and climatic adaptability, and response to fertilizers and agrochemicals; devise crop sequences to optimize use of labour and equipment and maximize the biological benefits of weed control by competition, mechanical, biological and herbicide options, provision of non-host crops to minimize disease and, where appropriate, inclusion of legumes to provide a biological source of nitrogen; apply fertilizers, organic and inorganic, in a balanced fashion, with appropriate methods and equipment and at adequate intervals to replace nutrients extracted by harvest or lost during production; maximize the benefits to soil and nutrient stability by re-cycling crop and other organic residues; integrate livestock into crop rotations and utilize the nutrient cycling provided by grazing or housed livestock to benefit the fertility of the entire farm; rotate livestock on pastures to allow for healthy re-growth of pasture; and adhere to safety regulations and observe established safety standards for the operation of equipment and machinery for crop and fodder production.
vii) Maintenance of crop health is essential for successful farming for both yield and quality of produce. This requires long-term strategies to manage risks by the use of disease- and pest-resistant crops, crop and pasture rotations, disease breaks for susceptible crops, and the judicious use of agrochemicals to control weeds, pests, and diseases following the principles of Integrated Pest Management. Any measure for crop protection, but particularly those involving substances that are harmful for humans or the environment, must only be carried out with consideration for potential negative impacts and with full knowledge and appropriate equipment.
viii) Good practices related to crop protection will include those that use resistant cultivars and varieties, crop sequences, associations, and cultural practices that maximize biological prevention of pests and diseases; maintain regular and quantitative assessment of the balance status between pests and diseases and beneficial organisms of all crops; adopt organic control practices where and when applicable; apply pest and disease forecasting techniques where available; determine interventions following consideration of all possible methods and their short- and long-term effects on farm productivity and environmental implications in order to minimize the use of agrochemicals, in particular to promote integrated pest management (IPM); store and use agrochemicals according to legal requirements of registration for individual crops, rates, timings, and pre-harvest intervals; ensure that agrochemicals are only applied by specially trained and knowledgeable persons; ensure that equipment used for the handling and application of agrochemicals complies with established safety and maintenance standards; and maintain accurate records of agrochemical use.
ix) Livestock require adequate space, feed, and water for welfare and productivity. Stocking rates must be adjusted and supplements provided as needed to livestock grazing pasture or rangeland. Chemical and biological contaminants in livestock feeds are avoided to maintain animal health and/or to prevent their entry into the food chain. Manure management minimises nutrient losses and stimulates positive effects on the environment. Land requirements are evaluated to ensure sufficient land for feed production and waste disposal.
x) Good practices related to animal production will include those that site livestock units appropriately to avoid negative effects on the landscape, environment, and animal welfare; avoid biological, chemical, and physical contamination of pasture, feed, water, and the atmosphere; frequently monitor the condition of stock and adjust stocking rates, feeding, and water supply accordingly; design, construct, choose, use and maintain equipment, structures, and handling facilities to avoid injury and loss; prevent residues from veterinary medications and other chemicals given in feeds from entering the food chain; minimize the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics; integrate livestock and agriculture to avoid problems of waste removal, nutrient loss, and greenhouse gas emissions by efficient recycling of nutrients; adhere to safety regulations and observe established safety standards for the operation of installations, equipment, and machinery for animal production; and maintain records of stock acquisitions, breeding, losses, and sales, and of feeding plans, feed acquisitions, and sales.
Animal Health and Welfare
xi) Successful animal production requires attention to animal health that is maintained by proper management and housing, by preventive treatments such as vaccination, and by regular inspection, identification, and treatment of ailments, using veterinary advice as required. Farm animals are sentient beings and as such their welfare must be considered. Good animal welfare is recognized as freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury or disease; freedom to express normal behaviour; and freedom from fear and distress.
xii) Good practices related to animal health and welfare will include those that minimize risk of infection and disease by good pasture management, safe feeding, appropriate stocking rates and good housing conditions; keep livestock, buildings and feed facilities clean and provide adequate, clean bedding where livestock is housed; ensure staff are properly trained in the handling and treatment of animals; seek appropriate veterinary advice to avoid disease and health problems; ensure good hygiene standards in housing by proper cleansing and disinfection; treat sick or injured animals promptly in consultation with a veterinarian; purchase, store and use only approved veterinary products in accordance with regulations and directions, including withholding periods; provide adequate and appropriate feed and clean water at all times; avoid non-therapeutic mutilations, surgical or invasive procedures, such as tail docking and debeaking; minimise transport of live animals (by foot, rail or road); handle animals with appropriate care and avoid the use of instruments such as electric goads; maintain animals in appropriate social groupings where possible; discourage isolation of animals (such as veal crates and sow stalls) except when animals are injured or sick; and conform to minimum space allowances and maximum stocking densities.
Harvest and On-farm Processing and Storage
xiii) Product quality also depends upon implementation of acceptable protocols for harvesting, storage, and where appropriate, processing of farm products. Harvesting must conform to regulations relating to pre-harvest intervals for agrochemicals and withholding periods for veterinary medicines. Food produce should be stored under appropriate conditions of temperature and humidity in space designed and reserved for that purpose. Operations involving animals, such as shearing and slaughter, must adhere to animal health and welfare standards.
xiv) Good practices related to harvest and on-farm processing and storage will include those that harvest food products following relevant pre-harvest intervals and withholding periods; provide for clean and safe handling for on-farm processing of products. For washing, use recommended detergents and clean water; store food products under hygienic and appropriate environmental conditions; pack food produce for transport from the farm in clean and appropriate containers; and use methods of pre-slaughter handling and slaughter that are humane and appropriate for each species, with attention to supervision, training of staff and proper maintenance of equipment.
Energy and Waste Management
xv) Energy and waste management are also components of sustainable production systems. Farms require fuel to drive machinery for cultural operations, for processing, and for transport. The objective is to perform operations in a timely fashion, reduce the drudgery of human labour, improve efficiency, diversify energy sources, and reduce energy use.
xvi) Good practices related to energy and waste management will include those that establish input-output plans for farm energy, nutrients, and agrochemicals to ensure efficient use and safe disposal; adopt energy saving practices in building design, machinery size, maintenance, and use; investigate alternative energy sources to fossil fuels (wind, solar, biofuels) and adopt them where feasible; recycle organic wastes and inorganic materials, where possible; minimize non-usable wastes and dispose of them responsibly; store fertilizers and agrochemicals securely and in accordance with legislation; establish emergency action procedures to minimize the risk of pollution from accidents; and maintain accurate records of energy use, storage, and disposal.
Human Welfare, Health and Safety
xvii) Human welfare, health and safety are further components of sustainability. Farming must be economically viable to be sustainable. The social and economic welfare of farmers, farm workers, and their communities depends upon it. Health and safety are also important concerns for those involved in farming operations. Due care and diligence is required at all times. With regard to agricultural workers, the ILO in collaboration with governments, employers and trade unions, has developed core conventions on labour including codes of practice for agriculture, which have not been specifically included in the indicators and practices.
xviii) Good practices related to human welfare, health and safety will include those that direct all farming practices to achieve an optimum balance between economic, environmental, and social goals; provide adequate household income and food security; adhere to safe work procedures with acceptable working hours and allowance for rest periods; instruct workers in the safe and efficient use of tools and machinery; pay reasonable wages and not exploit workers, especially women and children; and purchase inputs and other services from local merchants if possible.
Wildlife and Landscape
xix Agricultural land accommodates a diverse range of animals, birds, insects, and plants. Much public concern about modern farming is directed at the loss of some of these species from the countryside because their habitats have been destroyed. The challenge is to manage and enhance wildlife habitats while keeping the farm business economically viable.
xx) Good practices related to wildlife and landscapes will include those that identify and conserve wildlife habitats and landscape features, such as isolated trees, on the farm; create, as far as possible, a diverse cropping pattern on the farm; minimize the impact of operations such as tillage and agrochemical use on wildlife; manage field margins to reduce noxious weeds and to encourage a diverse flora and fauna with beneficial species; manage water courses and wetlands to encourage wildlife and to prevent pollution; and monitor those species of plants and animals whose presence on the farm is evidence of good environmental practice.