1. Agriculture World

Amazing! How smart farming techniques by South Korea can future-proof agriculture.

Vivek Verma
Vivek Verma

South Korea’s approach to agriculture involves both old century’s traditions and techniques that belongs to the same time. They adapted to the changing times and modified their traditions and techniques according to environmental conditions and climate change. We can learn from them and do the same to future proof our food production. 

Various countries have hailed South Korea as a model in handling COVID-19 crises, but they are also playing a vital role in finding solutions to the long-term problems of climate change and agricultural production with its agricultural techniques and traditions.

How South Korea can be an ideal example for agriculture in the recent times:

In Chuncheongnam province, there is a town called Geumsan. It is the heartland of the country’s most famous crop Ginseng, also locally known as Insam. They apply their knowledge of Korean landscape management techniques and uses transition areas between different types of landscapes, known as ecotones. The crops of Ginseng are planted at greatly precise places depending on wind and sun exposure and also temperature, direction and rainfall. Centuries of plantation have taught these farmers that Ginseng grows best on 25-30 degree slop in mountain valleys and from east to south direction. This helps in maximizing sunlight, ventilation and water drainage. The structures of wood and cloth are angled specially to make sure that methods of farming are adapted to environmental conditions.

This is how the farming of ginseng has adapted to Chuncheongnam’s mountainous topography using hill forest to its advantage. The forests serve as green walls and windbreaks, controlling sun and wind exposure for the crop to grow to optimum yields.

Enhancement of soil fertility:

The management and usage of land reflects developed Korean farming combining intercropping, multi-cropping, crop rotation, and resting periods, all rolled into one dynamic system. The traditional knowledge about nitrogen-fixing plants, micro-organisms and soil bacteria and the relation between all to increase soil fertility, boosting crop health and reducing pest infestations.

An area allocated for vegetables in this system will intercrop two or more plants such as cabbage, pepper and radish, followed by a plot intercropping barley, beans, corn or rye, and finally a plot for rice.

Here farmers make their own natural fertilizer and pesticides by using their Korean traditional knowledge of soil nutrients. They do this by culturing and multiplying micro- organisms, bacteria, fungi to enhance fertility of soil without the need of livestock waste.

Water management:

The island of Cheongsando is a region of severe water scarcity. Yet, the famers here are planting rice, a crop which is highly water dependent. By using an agricultural technique that is 500 years old farmers have adapted to the water scarcity of the area and have built terraces for rice.

Basically, the farmers here use underground aqueducts to irrigate rice fields on top. Farmers lay a flat stone and stack rocks. After that they put a layer of red mud and finally arable soil for the rice. The rice grows in the soil, while the red mud retains and controls the amount of water, with any excess dripping between the stacked stones and into the rice terrace below.

The high rate of water drainage and thin layer of soil results in high loss of nutrients. To tackle this farmers apply traditional fertilizers made up of mixture of grass, leftover animal feed, human manure to supplement. For controlling pests antiseptic leaves from the silk tree are used.

This whole process helps in maximizing the use of land without adverse effects on the surrounding environment. The aqueducts simultaneously serve as a home to diverse aquatic flora and fauna.

Some parts of South Korea witness regular floods, farmers here have developed an Agroforestry system. For 1200 years they planted and cultivated diverse tea trees in that areas. Now long adapted to the ecosystem, the trees themselves serve as barriers to the flooding of villages, and bring in revenue for this region that accounts for 20 per cent of South Korea’s domestic tea production.

The climate change crises is growing on intense level and it is the farmers who can be change makers and push through by adaptations responses as they are the one who are on the front lines of climate change. They are vulnerable as their livelihoods can get directly impacted by this.

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