Are current large scale industrial agricultural practices sustainable


Are current agricultural practices sustainable?

Through decades of science and practice, the following farming practices have proven effective in achieving sustainability, especially when used in combination: Rotating crops and embracing diversity. Planting a variety of crops can have many benefits, including healthier soil and improved pest control.

Is industrial agriculture sustainable?

Industrialized agriculture is highly concentrated and mechanized, relying on chemical inputs like fertilizers, pesticides and non-therapeutic antibiotics. However, sustainable agriculture, which uses methods that protect the environment, public health, human communities and animal welfare, is gaining traction.

Is large scale agriculture sustainable?

Large corporate farms are often accused of having a damaging impact on ecology and contributing heavily to climate change. Industrial farming, in particular livestock farming, is increasingly associated with global warming, soil and water contamination, overproduction of waste and deforestation.

Does modern industrial agriculture have a sustainable future?

An industrial agriculture is not ecologically sustainable. Industrial agriculture also is a significant contributor to the depletion of �social energy.

How can we make industrial agriculture sustainable?

Sustainable farming practices include: Planting a diverse array of crops on a rotating basis to promote soil health and avoid an increasing dependency on pesticides to manage parasites that evolve over time with monoculture plantings.

What are the pros and cons of industrial agriculture?

Here are the pros and cons:Pros of Industrial Agriculture.It increases food production. Large-scale industrial farms have an advantage over traditional farms when it comes to producing food fast and in larger amounts. … Cons of Industrial Agriculture.It increases the risk of animal cruelty. … Conclusion.

Why is industrial agriculture unsustainable?

The industrial agriculture system consumes fossil fuel, water, and topsoil at unsustainable rates. It contributes to numerous forms of environmental degradation, including air and water pollution, soil depletion, diminishing biodiversity, and fish die-offs.

Why is large scale farming bad for the environment?

Large-scale, conventional farming focuses on intensive single crop production, mechanization, and depends on fossil fuels, pesticides, antibiotics, and synthetic fertilizers. While this system yields high production levels, it also contributes to climate change, pollutes air and water, and depletes soil fertility.

Why is industrial agriculture bad?

Industrial farming is bad for the health of workers, eaters, and downstream neighbors. Here are some of its costly health impacts: Pesticide toxicity. Herbicides and insecticides commonly used in agriculture have been associated with both acute poisoning and long-term chronic illness.

How agricultural production will be different in a sustainable future?

By adopting conservation practices, farmers can build rich, fertile soils that will grow robust crops while protecting water sources, storing carbon, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating fields that are more resilient to extreme weather events. It’s a win-win for farmers and nature.

What is an example of new technology having a negative impact on sustainability?

using automation to shut down unused electric devices is an example of new technology having a negative impact on sustainability.

What are two environmental impacts of industrial agriculture?

Industrial agriculture harms the environment through pollution of air, soil and water. Air emissions from livestock operations make up 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Conventional crop production degrades soil health and causes soil erosion.

Why can’t agriculture be formulaic?

Agriculture can’t be formulaic or dogmatic because, as Justin says, “diverse ecosystems require diverse practices.”. Justin is also, crucially, maximizing the nutrition produced per every acre, drop of water and pound of greenhouse gas emitted, as anyone who displaces native species has an obligation to do.

What is the difference between high yield and low yield farms?

High-yield farms, like cities, concentrate that human footprint. Low-yield farms, like suburbs, exact a far-flung, profligate price. Many small and organic farmers do maximize productivity, especially those that layer crops and integrate animals.

What is the carbon level of Justin’s soil?

Justin’s soil carbon, depleted to near zero by generations of plowing, is now more than halfway to the 4 percent carbon levels in native prairie soils.

Why are diverse plantings important?

And diverse plantings support diversity both above ground — of grassland birds, beneficial insects and prairie mammals — and below, where a complex web of microbes depend on one another not only for survival, but also to provide together functions like immunity to crops that none can provide alone.

Where does Susan Horn work?

She works at the Environmental Defense Fund and divides her time between New York City and rural Colorado. Horn previously worked for the U.S. Forest Service and spent 15 years writing for numerous newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, Smithsonian and Vanity Fair.

Does soil release carbon?

Undisturbed soil stores carbon rather than releasing it into the atmosphere. Careful nitrogen use prevents release into the atmosphere of nitrous oxide, another powerful greenhouse gas, and harmful run-off into rivers, lakes and coastal waters.

Is rancher farming sustainable?

Below, Horn pulls from the story of Justin Knopf, a farmer in central Kansas, to show that industrial-scale farming — and yes , even the pesticides that come with it — can be sustainable.

What are sustainable farming practices?

Sustainable farming practices include: Planting a diverse array of crops on a rotating basis to promote soil health and avoid an increasing dependency on pesticides to manage parasites that evolve over time with monoculture plantings.

How has industrial agriculture affected the world?

Although industrial agriculture has made it possible to produce large quantities of food at a relatively low cost, over time the system has degraded the land, water, and other resources we depend on for life and contributed to more frequent, devastating drought conditions.

Why is sustainable agriculture important?

As an additional benefit, sustainable agriculture practices can replenish the soil’s ability to serve its important role as a sink for carbon. In terms of profitability, farmers using sustainable practices often find they are able to attain a net income at least as high as their conventional farming neighbors.

What is sustainable waste management?

Adopting sustainable waste management systems, such as composting manure and applying it to soil in lieu of chemical fertilizers . Sustainable agriculture is an ever-evolving field, and successful sustainable farming requires implementing a variety of strategies concurrently; this list provides a brief overview of some common, current methods.

What is the primary goal of sustainable agriculture?

The primary goal of this type of farming is to meet our textile and food needs without compromising the capability of the future generation to provide for their needs. Sustainable agriculture focuses on promoting the economy through increased productivity while protecting the environment.

How does sustainable farming help the environment?

Sustainable farming maximizes productivity while reducing environmental destruction. Globally, agriculture is succeeding in production, but failing miserably in sustainability. Our ranches and farms produce huge quantities of fuel, food, and fiber, but all this success comes at the expense of public health, the environment, …

What are some practices to improve crop diversity?

Some of the crop diversity practices you can adopt include complex multi-year crop rotation and inter-cropping (planting different types of crops on the same field). 2. Embracing Diversity. Although planting numerous plant species is a great sustainable farming method, it is not an option for commercial farmers with a market for specific crops. …

Why is it important to farm different varieties?

Farming different varieties make your crop stronger since they are genetically distinct. Crop diversity protects the crops from pests and diseases that favor a specific crop variety. 3. Planting Cover Crops.

Why is monoculture important?

Monoculture, a widespread practice in many developing countries, is the primary cause of increased super-weeds and poor soil which results in decreased productivity. Planting different varieties of crops can be quite beneficial to your farm. Rotating crops helps improve pest and weed control, and leads to healthier soil. Some of the crop diversity practices you can adopt include complex multi-year crop rotation and inter-cropping (planting different types of crops on the same field).

What does it mean to farm sustainably?

Farming sustainably means working with nature rather than against it to maintain longterm productivity and health of the soil and ourselves. Image credit: Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock. Sustainable farming means farming using sustainable methods based on your understanding of the ecosystem.

Why is it important to invest in sustainable farming?

Sustainable agriculture aims at providing food for the present generation while making sure that the future generation will enjoy the same benefits from the environment.

Scaling sustainable agricultural practices

Agricultural technologies implemented since the mid-20th century have helped triple food production and feed the growing global population. However, they have also negatively impacted the environment.


The global debate regarding food has shifted from how to feed the world with more calories, no matter how they are produced, to how to feed the world healthily and sustainably.


We recommend prioritizing and incentivizing sustainable agriculture by refocusing existing agricultural and food policies and designing new policies to support the transition to and scaling up of sustainable agriculture, particularly among farmers with limited capacity and access to finance.

What are the causes of unsustainable agriculture?

They include pricing, tax and subsidy policies that have encouraged the excessive and uneconomic use of agricultural inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers, and overexploitation of land.

How have new technologies boosted agriculture?

This includes loss of biodiversity, resistance of insects against pesticides, land degradation through water erosion or wind and nutrient depletion.

What is efficiency in agriculture?

For “efficiency” purposes, modern agriculture has separated the planting of crops and raring of animals, which used to coexist in harmony before . Naturally if they were kept together, no waste management would have been done, and crops should not require fertiliser or lack nutrients.

How does genetically modified agriculture affect the environment?

GMO crops have resulted to a huge increase in farming using agricultural chemicals that are applied directly to crops.

What are the three basic nutrients that are needed for agriculture?

Most of the fertilizers used in industrial agriculture are made from petrochemicals and only supply three basic nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium . These three nutrients may fulfil a plant’s most basic requirements for growth, however, the crops may not receive other nutrients, or may have traces of minerals, which are not so good for their optimal health and for the health of those who consume them.

Why is land degraded?

As more and more land is heavily ploughed and cleared to create room for agricultural practices, the natural habitat is gradually destroyed and the other land is becoming increasingly degraded. Such negative practices results to exposure of the top soil that is blown by wind or washed away by water or rain, erosion emanating from deforestation, sedimentation in water bodies and increased flooding.

Why is there need to increase production?

With the pressure from global markets and food insecurity, there has been need to increase production. Many farmers are planting crops on their entire pieces of land, leaving the land bare for soil erosion resulting from waterways from water runoff.

Why are locavores considered a sustainability measure?

In addition to organic labels, many people look to locally produced food as a measure of sustainability. These so-called “ locavores ” argue that the fewer miles from field to fork, the less environmental impact of your meal. Others, such as Steve Sexton, Assistant Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, argue that large-scale monocrop farms actually use fewer resources and cause less harm to the environment than small-scale farms with diverse crops. The gains in efficiency, debatably, outweigh the limited carbon avoidance from reduced food miles on the locavore menu.

Do small farmers face legal barriers?

But the plot thickens. Not only do small farmers face significant financial and legal barriers, the very tools used to evaluate environmental impact are designed with only an industrial scale in mind, according to Ankita Raturi, a doctoral student in Informatics at the University of California, Irvine.

What is industrial agriculture?

Industrial agriculture is the large-scale, intensive production of crops and animals, often involving chemical fertilizers on crops or the routine , harmful use of antibiotics in animals (as a way to compensate for filthy conditions, even when the animals are not sick). It may also involve crops that are genetically modified, …

How long has agriculture been around?

Human agriculture has existed for about 12,000 years, and industrial farming is less than a century old. But the latter has become so prevalent that sustainable farming practices are now sometimes branded “alternative.”

How does crop farming affect the environment?

There is soil depletion and soil infertility related to monoculture, soil erosion, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, increased greenhouse gas emissions (particularly methane and nitrous oxide) from cow digestion and manure as well as nitrogen-based fertilizers, and pesticide overuse leading to potential pesticide toxicity (especially in farmworkers). Studies show that employees of CAFOs are at risk from potentially deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria; workers can also bring these bacteria home. Farmworkers and local communities can also be exposed to hazardous fumes wafting from unlined, uncovered pits of animal waste and other sources. And despite the fact that CAFOs often must meet permitting requirements and are regulated by both state and federal agencies, NRDC has discovered a worrying lack of transparency. Discrepancies between data collected by states and the EPA suggest the EPA is unaware of the size, number, and location of CAFOs across the country and what those operations are doing to control pollution. And that’s just for starters. Here are some areas of particular concern.

How much manure was produced in 2012?

In 2012 livestock and poultry raised in the largest CAFOs in the United States produced 369 million tons of manure, according to an analysis of USDA figures done by Food & Water Watch. All that waste has to go somewhere.

Why is monoculture bad for the soil?

Monoculture also renders the soil prone to rapid erosion, since the practice leaves the soil bare outside of the crop’s growing season. Perhaps more problematically, repeatedly planting the same crop invites pests that prey on a certain plant to wait around the same spot for their favorite food to return.

Why do industrial farms use antibiotics?

Industrial farms overuse antibiotics, feeding large amounts of the drugs—often the same ones used to treat human illnesses—to healthy animals to help them survive in crowded, dirty CAFOs. Low-level exposure to antibiotics creates the perfect breeding ground for superbugs, those pathogens that antibiotics can’t kill.

What did ancient farmers plant?

Ancient farmers planted seeds from only the sweetest fruits, generation after generation, ensuring that any genetic variations that increased sweetness survived. By selecting plants with increasingly white, increasingly tiny, flowers, farmers turned a weedy little herb into cauliflower. It was slow but effective.

How does industrial farming affect agriculture?

Industrial farming practices also threaten the long-term viability of agriculture. Nutrients aren’t the only thing that run off from fields that lack grassy buffers or cover crops. Soil also washes into waterways. In the U.S., topsoil has been eroding from farms faster than it can be replaced, which threatens future crop yields.

What are the problems of industrial agriculture?

is dominated by large, specialized crop and animal farms. These industrial farms focus on short-term productivity, often at the cost of creating environmental and public health problems.

What happens when you grow the same crop year after year?

For example, by growing the same one or two crops year after year – most often corn and soybeans – industrial farms deplete nutrients in the soil. In response, they apply manure or synthetic fertilizer but too often this washes into waterways, where it feeds algal blooms that create dead zones or pollute drinking water.

Why do farmers feed their animals antibiotics?

Because so many animals are kept in a limited area, often in unsanitary conditions that allow disease to spread quickly, operators of these farms may feed daily doses of antibiotics to their animals . This routine use of antibiotics on animals results in the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can infect humans …

Can farmers raise chickens without antibiotics?

Farmers can raise animals without the routine use of antibiotics – in the near future, nearly half the chicken in this country will be raised without the routine use of medically important antibiotics – but federal policy gives them little incentive to do so.

Does federal crop insurance help with water pollution?

Federally subsidized crop insurance, for instance, encourages specialization in corn and soy, despite its implications for water quality. A better approach would be to limit subsidized crop insurance to farms that implement measures to limit water pollution.


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