How Can You Support Sustainable Agriculture
Sustainable agriculture is the act of farming based on an understanding of ecosystem services, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment. The phrase was reportedly coined by Australian agricultural scientist Gordon McClymont. Wes Jackson is credited with the first publication of the expression in his 1980 book New Roots for Agriculture.
? If you want to support this type of agriculture, try selling food that was produced locally. When you invest in locally-grown produce, you show your consumers that you support local economies.
What is sustainable agriculture?
However, sustainable agriculture is more than a collection of practices. It is also process of negotiation: a push and pull between the sometimes competing interests of an individual farmer or of people in a community as they work to solve complex problems about how we grow our food and fiber.
How do farmers manage their crops to be sustainable?
Another common technique is mixing crops, which reduces the risk of a disease destroying a whole crop and decreases the need for pesticides and herbicides. Sustainable farmers also utilize water management systems, such as drip irrigation, that waste less water.
What are the government policies that impede sustainable agriculture?
Existing federal, state and local government policies often impede the goals of sustainable agriculture. New policies are needed to simultaneously promote environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity.
What drives agricultural sustainability initiatives and projects?
Recent empirical evidence shows that successful agricultural sustainability initiatives and projects arise from shifts in the factors of agricultural production (e.g. from use of fertilizers to nitrogen-fixing legumes; from pesticides to emphasis on natural enemies; from ploughing to zero-tillage).
What is the goal of sustainable agriculture?
The goal of sustainable agriculture is to meet society’s food and textile needs in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Practitioners of sustainable agriculture seek to integrate three main objectives into their work: a healthy environment, economic profitability, and social and economic equity.
Who can play a role in ensuring a sustainable agricultural system?
Every person involved in the food system—growers, food processors, distributors, retailers, consumers, and waste managers —can play a role in ensuring a sustainable agricultural system. There are many practices commonly used by people working in sustainable agriculture and sustainable food systems.
What are the three areas of concern for sustainable agriculture?
The strategies are grouped according to three separate though related areas of concern: Farming and Natural Resources, Plant and Animal Production Practices, and the Economic, Social and Political Context. They represent a range of potential ideas for individuals committed to interpreting the vision of sustainable agriculture within their own circumstances.
How do consumers contribute to the food system?
Through their purchases, they send strong messages to producers, retailers and others in the system about what they think is important. Food cost and nutritional quality have always influenced consumer choices.
What is a systems approach?
A systems approach gives us the tools to explore the interconnections between farming and other aspects of our environment. Everyone plays a role in creating a sustainable food system. A systems approach also implies interdisciplinary efforts in research and education.
What is the principal resource that has helped agriculture and society to prosper?
Water . Water is the principal resource that has helped agriculture and society to prosper, and it has been a major limiting factor when mismanaged. Water supply and use. In California, an extensive water storage and transfer system has been established which has allowed crop production to expand to very arid regions.
What happens to the natural resources of ancient Mesopotamia?
When the production of food and fiber degrades the natural resource base, the ability of future generations to produce and flourish decreases. The decline of ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean region, Pre-Columbian southwest U.S. and Central America is believed to have been strongly influenced by natural resource degradation from non-sustainable farming and forestry practices.
What is agricultural sustainability?
If a technology works to improve productivity for farmers and does not cause undue harm to the environment , then it is likely to have some sustainability benefits. Agricultural systems emphasizing these principles also tend to be multifunctional within landscapes and economies (Dobbs & Pretty 2004; MEA 2005). They jointly produce food and other goods for farmers and markets, but also contribute to a range of valued public goods, such as clean water, wildlife and habitats, carbon sequestration, flood protection, groundwater recharge, landscape amenity value and leisure/tourism. In this way, sustainability can be seen as both relative and case dependent and implies a balance between a range of agricultural and environmental goods and services.
How does sustainability affect agriculture?
Concerns about sustainability in agricultural systems centre on the need to develop technologies and practices that do not have adverse effects on environmental goods and services , are accessible to and effective for farmers, and lead to improvements in food productivity . Despite great progress in agricultural productivity in the past half-century, with crop and livestock productivity strongly driven by increased use of fertilizers, irrigation water, agricultural machinery, pesticides and land, it would be over-optimistic to assume that these relationships will remain linear in the future. New approaches are needed that will integrate biological and ecological processes into food production, minimize the use of those non-renewable inputs that cause harm to the environment or to the health of farmers and consumers, make productive use of the knowledge and skills of farmers, so substituting human capital for costly external inputs, and make productive use of people’s collective capacities to work together to solve common agricultural and natural resource problems, such as for pest, watershed, irrigation, forest and credit management. These principles help to build important capital assets for agricultural systems: natural; social; human; physical; and financial capital. Improving natural capital is a central aim, and dividends can come from making the best use of the genotypes of crops and animals and the ecological conditions under which they are grown or raised. Agricultural sustainability suggests a focus on both genotype improvements through the full range of modern biological approaches and improved understanding of the benefits of ecological and agronomic management, manipulation and redesign. The ecological management of agroecosystems that addresses energy flows, nutrient cycling, population-regulating mechanisms and system resilience can lead to the redesign of agriculture at a landscape scale. Sustainable agriculture outcomes can be positive for food productivity, reduced pesticide use and carbon balances. Significant challenges, however, remain to develop national and international policies to support the wider emergence of more sustainable forms of agricultural production across both industrialized and developing countries.
What makes agriculture unique?
What makes agriculture unique as an economic sector is that it directly affects many of the very assets on which it relies for success. Agricultural systems at all levels rely on the value of services flowing from the total stock of assets that they influence and control, and five types of asset—natural, social, human, physical and financial capital—are now recognized as being important. There are, though, some advantages and misgivings with the use of the term capital. On the one hand, capital implies an asset, and assets should be cared for, protected and accumulated over long periods. On the other hand, capital can imply easy measurability and transferability. Since the value of something can be assigned a monetary value, then it can appear not to matter if it is lost, as the required money could simply be allocated to purchase another asset or to transfer it from elsewhere. But nature and its wider values is not so easily replaceable as a commodity (Coleman 1988; Ostrom 1990; Putnam et al. 1993; Flora & Flora 1996; Benton 1998; Uphoff 1998, 2002; Costanza et al. 1997; Pretty 2003). Nonetheless, terms such as natural, social and human capital are useful in helping to shape concepts around basic questions such as what is agriculture for and what system works best. The five capitals are defined in the following ways:
How does agriculture affect the environment?
Agriculture can negatively affect the environment through overuse of natural resources as inputs or their use as a sink for pollution. Such effects are called negative externalities because they are usually non-market effects and therefore their costs are not part of market prices. Negative externalities are one of the classic causes of market failure whereby the polluter does not pay the full costs of their actions, and therefore these costs are called external costs (Baumol & Oates 1988; Pretty et al.2000, 2003a; Dobbs & Pretty 2004; Moss 2008).
How will the world food system change?
An important change in the world food system will come from the increased consumption of livestock products (Fitzhugh 1998; Delgado et al.1999; Smil 2000). Meat demand is expected to rise rapidly with economic growth and this will change many farming systems. Livestock are important in mixed production systems, using foods and by-products that would not have been consumed by humans. But increasingly animals are raised intensively and fed with cheap and energetically inefficient cereals and oils. In industrialized countries, 73% of cereals are fed to animals; in developing countries, some 37% are used in this way. Currently, per capitaannual demand in industrialized countries is 550 kg of cereal and 78 kg of meat. By contrast, in developing countries, it is only 260 kg of cereal and 30 kg of meat.
How much has food production grown since the 1960s?
Since then, aggregate world food production has grown by 145%. In Africa it rose by 140%, in Latin America by almost 200% and in Asia by 280%. The greatest increases have been in China, where a fivefold increase occurred, mostly during the 1980s–1990s. In industrialized countries, production started from a higher base; yet it still doubled in the USA over 40 years and grew by 68% in Western Europe (FAO 2005).
Is agriculture sustainable?
However, agricultural sustainability does not require that all assets are improved at the same time. One agricultural system that contributes more to these capital assets than the other can be said to be more sustainable, but there may still be trade-offs with one asset increasing as the other falls. In practice, though, there are usually strong links between changes in natural, social and human capital (Pretty 2003), with agricultural systems having many potential effects on all three.
What is sustainable agriculture?
Sustainable agriculture is a type of agriculture that focuses on producing long-term crops and livestock while having minimal effects on the environment. This type of agriculture tries to find a good balance between the need for food production and the preservation of the ecological system within the environment. In addition to producing food, there are several overall goals associated with sustainable agriculture, including conserving water, reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides, and promoting biodiversity in crops grown and the ecosystem. Sustainable agriculture also focuses on maintaining economic stability of farms and helping farmers improve their techniques and quality of life.
Why is sustainable agriculture important?
In terms of human health, crops grown through sustainable agriculture are better for people. Due to the lack of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, people are not being exposed to or consuming synthetic materials. This limits the risk of people becoming ill from exposure to these chemicals. In addition, the crops produced through sustainable agriculture can also be more nutritious because the overall crops are healthier and more natural.
How does agriculture affect the environment?
One major benefit to the environment is that sustainable agriculture uses 30% less energy per unit of crop yield in comparison to industrialized agriculture. This reduced reliance on fossil fuels results in the release of less chemicals and pollution into the environment. Sustainable agriculture also benefits the environment by maintaining soil quality, reducing soil degradation and erosion, and saving water. In addition to these benefits, sustainable agriculture also increases biodiversity of the area by providing a variety of organisms with healthy and natural environments to live in.
How can agriculture be more sustainable?
There are many farming strategies that are used that help make agriculture more sustainable. Some of the most common techniques include growing plants that can create their own nutrients to reduce the use of fertilizers and rotating crops in fields, which minimizes pesticide use because the crops are changing frequently.
How does sustainable agriculture help biodiversity?
In addition to these benefits, sustainable agriculture also increases biodiversity of the area by providing a variety of organisms with healthy and natural environments to live in. Although there are many benefits to sustainable agriculture, there are also some issues associated with it.
Which would you prefer to eat?
If you had to choose, which would you prefer to eat: food that is grown more naturally or food that is enhanced by spraying it with pesticides or applying chemical fertilizers? Most people would prefer the natural food that is free of chemicals and artificial enhancements. Unfortunately, the majority of food we consume is produced using industrialized agriculture, which is a type of agriculture where large quantities of crops and livestock are produced through industrial techniques for the purpose of sale. This type of agriculture relies heavily on a variety of chemicals and artificial enhancements, such as pesticides, fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms. This type of agriculture also uses a large amount of fossil fuels and large machines to manage the farm land. Although industrialized agriculture has made it possible to produce large quantities of food, due to the negative aspects of this technique, there has been a shift towards sustainable agriculture.
What are the main goals of agriculture?
The main goals of this type of agriculture are to produce food, conserve water, reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides, promote biodiversity, and maintain a stable economy and lifestyle for farmers.
What is sustainable agriculture?
Sustainable agriculture serves as a much-needed alternative to the industrial farming practices that have been employed in the United States for decades. These methods, which include repeatedly planting the same crop on one plot of land and encouraging growth through the heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers, …
What are the three main goals of sustainable agriculture?
The three main goals of sustainable agriculture are economic profitability for farmers; the promotion of environmental stewardship; and an increase in welfare for farmers, their communities, and their animals while producing enough to meet the needs of humans.
Why are antibiotics not used in agriculture?
Antibiotic Resistance: Because antibiotics are not used for preventive medicine in sustainable agriculture, implementing sustainable methods of production increases the effectiveness of antibiotics in treating people. Pandemics: Industrial agriculture, in which animals are kept in tight quarters, is a driver of disease.
Why are sustainable methods of production more likely to support and rely on the local economy?
Localization: Sustainable methods of production are more likely to support and rely on the local economy. Farms are no longer purchasing products, such as fertilizers and pesticides, from outside their communities, and instead are relying more heavily on local resources such as labor.
How has agriculture dominated food production in the United States?
It is characterized by large tracts of land planted with one crop, extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides, animals being held in CAFOs, and an emphasis on a select few crops that are used for animal feed and the production of processed foods.
How does agriculture affect the environment?
Environmental Impacts. Industrial agriculture is a driving force behind water pollution, soil degradation, and air pollution. The animals housed in CAFOs produce tons of manure every year which is either stored or applied to fields as a fertilizer.
What is the Farm Bill?
The Farm Bill also provides for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program which provide financial and technical assistance to farms that use sustainable methods that encourage improved water, air, and soil quality. The total budget for these programs is less than $5 billion.
What is sustainable agriculture?
Sustainable agriculture is often described as a set of ideal objectives which it is supposed to achieve ( Goals ). In order to achieve these goals, authors suggest or criticize different approaches and principles ( Strategies ), which should or should not be applied in different areas ( Fields of Action ).
How to bring together different perspectives on sustainable agriculture?
An important way to approach this challenge is something that has actually already been proposed in the literature on sustainable agriculture before but has been paid rather little heed: co-operation, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research and work. Through interdisciplinary collaboration, the different kinds of expertise and insights can be combined; through transdisciplinary cooperation, practical relevancies, theoretical considerations and technical requirements can inform each other. In general, this suggests more engagement with each other and finding links between the different conceptions in order to advance the development towards a sustainable agriculture rather than giving up due to the supposedly unsurmountable differences, even if this might be at times a very difficult process. We highlight that our framework can help to find such links by showing similarities between ideas and concepts. Future research could further help the integration of the different approaches and paradigms by detecting and understanding the motivations that have led the different groups to conceive sustainable agriculture in the way they do. This understanding would help to discover more complementarities between the different conceptions where motivations are similar or where differences are rather superficial because they merely stem from practical requirements (such as different working focuses of the different disciplines). Where the differences are more deeply rooted and originate from diverging belief systems, an understanding of the underlying motivations could be the basis to evaluate whether these differences can be overcome without necessarily having to challenge the different belief systems.
How many articles are there on sustainable agriculture?
With this search, we found 129 journal articles and 26 grey literature publications (see Table S1 in the Supplementary Information for the full list of these publications). This selection is not a complete compilation of all publications that have ever defined sustainable agriculture. Particularly, it does not contain any book chapters or conference papers. Nevertheless, it provides a broad overview of the conceptions of sustainable agriculture in use.
What is the draw towards a more socially centered view in the perspective of the practitioners?
The draw towards a more socially-centered view in the perspective of the practitioners is noticeable also when looking at the categories: The issue of the need for agriculture to provide a livelihood for those working with it gains overwhelmingly more attention in grey literature than in journal articles as in grey literature more heed is paid to categories such as “good working conditions”, “safety”, “accessibility” and “infrastructure”. In return, in grey literature publications, much less attention is paid to the conservation of ecosystem functions than in journal articles.
Why is agriculture important?
An agriculture able to continually provide food and other resources to a growing world population is of crucial importance for human existence and hence for any human activity. However, there are a great number of problems that threaten this ability of agriculture to fulfill human needs now and in the future, including climate change; a high rate of biodiversity loss; land degradation through soil erosion, compaction, salinization and pollution; depletion and pollution of water resources; rising production costs; an ever decreasing number of farms and, linked with that, poverty and a decrease of the rural population [ 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ]. Agriculture not only has to face these problems, but in the form it has been practiced over the last decades it also is a major cause of all of these issues [ 2, 9 ].
Is technocracy more responsive to rural and urban stakeholder groups?
However, “a technocratic approach to sustainable agriculture is not necessarily any more responsive to rural and urban stakeholder groups, or even to environmental concerns, than was traditional agricultural research” [ 65] (p. 341).
Is sustainable agriculture a concept?
Yet, like the notion of sustainable development itself, the concept of sustainable agriculture is ambiguous in its meaning [ 11 ]. This characteristic has led to the emergence of a great variety of different discourses, views or paradigms of sustainable agriculture [ 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18] and rendered the discussion and implementation of this idea extremely difficult. It also allows for exploitation of the concept by vested interests who use the notion for their own purposes [ 19 ]. In the hope of solving this problem and making the concept more tangible, there have been numerous attempts to define sustainable agriculture. Collections of definitions are found in [ 20] and [ 21 ], and include: