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Integrated farming and sustain...

Midway between intensive farming and organic farming, integrated farming and sustainable farming first appeared after the Second World War. Integrated farming aims to reduce the use of chemicals by favouring preventive cultivation methods and biological pest control. Sustainable farming is less radical and allows the use of chemicals according to tolerance threshold of crops.
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CC BY-SA / EISA І European Initiative for Sustainable Development in Agriculture - Overview of integrated farming

The quest for eco-friendly and healthy food production

Environmental imbalances (water pollution, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, etc.) and the health risks caused by intensive pesticide use after the Second World War led farmers to question the systematic use of synthetic chemical inputs. In the 1950s, entomologists working on biological pest control developed the concept of integrated pest control. This combines the use of chemical treatments with biological treatments in order to limit the economic costs and ecological damage caused by large quantities of chemical inputs. The International Organization for Biological Control (IOBC), founded in 1955, developed the concept of integrated protection. It promotes preventive methods of cultivation in order to limit the amount of pesticides required. Integrated protection offers a range of cultivation methods that deter pests (selecting plants that are more resistant, rotation and distribution of crops, mechanical weeding, irrigation, etc.), while meeting farms’ socio-economic, ecological and toxicological requirements.

In the late 1970s, the IOBC extended integrated protection to include integrated farming. It considers the farming system as a whole, and takes into account all the production factors to achieve long-term viability. However, different interpretations and regulations mean that the implementation of integrated farming methods varies enormously from country to country. In Europe, for example, some countries favour integrated agriculture as a whole (Austria, Portugal), while others focus on certain practices, whether crop rotation in France or, in Denmark, the establishment of buffer zones to limit water contamination by pesticides.

Sustainable farming, which claims to be more environmentally friendly and economically viable, is often confused with integrated farming. However, unlike the integrated approach, sustainable farming does not promote the exclusive use of biological cultivation and pest control methods, but allows the use of chemical inputs according to the tolerance threshold of crops. The concept of sustainable farming first appeared in France in the 1990s, as part of an initiative by FARRE, an association of phytosanitary product manufacturers as well as agriculture organisations and trade unions, before spreading to other European countries (Luxembourg, Sweden, Hungary, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands).

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