As countries develop, demand for meat often rises, increasing the temptation to further expand livestock-grazing areas into new frontiers. But, contrary to many predictions, global pastureland has waned, even in agricultural powerhouses like Brazil and mega-populous countries like China.
“I see circumstances under which it could be useful for short-cutting a process that for traditional breeding might take many plant generations,” says Tom Willey, an organic farmer emeritus from California. The disruption of natural ecosystems is a major challenge to agriculture, Willey told me, and while the problem cannot be wholly addressed by genome editing, it could lend an opportunity to “reach back into genomes of the wild ancestors of crop species to recapture genetic material” that has been lost through millennia of breeding for high yields.
As concern about waste grows, researchers and commercial partners around the world are working to turn what’s now being left behind or burned into new, useful products. By doing so, they hope to not only reduce the adverse environmental impacts of agriculture but also provide a new source of income for farmers.
Sewage sludge doesn’t have much value as fertilizer. Could extracting the valuable elements put it to better use?
Don’t apologize for GMO commodity crops. Say it loud and proud: These are the biggest innovations in sustainable agriculture of the last three decades.
The EU and member states are moving to ban neonicotinoid insecticides. But two recently released reports on the issue conclude that a ban would push farmers back to using pest control options that are worse for the environment and possibly for bees as well.
And here …The planet’s plants pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it in their leaves, stems and roots. Some of that carbon makes its way into the soil, and some of that soil carbon is ultimately mothballed for millennia.
These days, though, “we as humans are putting up so much CO2 that the Earth is not able to compensate,” says Wolfgang Busch, a plant biologist with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. Busch is working on a new project: to design plants that can suck even more CO2 out of the atmosphere and lock it away for centuries.
Before there was a general understanding of the benefits of native vegetation and the risks of invasive plants — introduced species that outcompete other species, spread quickly and alter ecosystems — USDA had a hand in introducing foreign plants that proved aggressive. Long ago, the agency promoted kudzu for erosion control. Now it works to control invasive species and does not provide assistance for planting them. It also actively promotes the use of native species through some programs.
‘Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources including water, land, energy, labour and capital,’ said Professor Montse Jorba Rafart, an expert in agrifood technologies from Leitat, a Spanish technological centre.
Instead, this waste could become a sustainable solution for another resource-heavy agricultural sector – animal feed.
It would not be possible to feed 7.6 billion people today without pesticides – let alone the 9-10 billion expected by 2050. So as well as being cautious and sparing in pesticide usage, let’s also give them some praise.
Dynamic cropping is an ecologically-based management strategy that optimizes production through the use of flexible crop sequencing. Here are the stories of four farmers who have found success with dynamic cropping systems.
Three examples of genetic engineering of crops show that extremely modest engineered changes in plant genetics can result in very important benefits. These three examples involve engineered changes that trigger the natural defenses of the plant without introducing novel defense mechanisms.
Nitrogen emissions from agriculture can exacerbate particulate pollution, endangering human health. There has been a lot of progress in addressing that, but much still needs to be done.
Agronomist Andrew McGuire explains why there is not enough manure or compost available – and can never be enough – to replenish soil fertility at a systems level. Studies that show improved outcomes on single farms are not measuring improvement at a systems level.
Returning manure to the soil that produced it can be a sustainable way of restoring soil organic matter. Too often the organic matter of many farms is pushed through the bottleneck of intensive livestock production to be applied just a few farms. Robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Can we produce enough manure to serve as a major source of soil nutrients? Agronomist Andrew McGuire shows the limitations due to entropy make it impossible for manure to make up more than a portion of nutrient replenishment.
Here’s a grown up, sophisticated meatless 13 bean soup that will satisfy vegans and carnivores equally.
Taking the Beyond Burger out for a test drive. While a bit spendy, this Plant Meat 2.0 burger is meal both carnivores and vegetarians can love.
With climate change contributing to increasing pest pressures, integrated pest management provides farmers with sustainable options.
For chefs and cooks wanting to support sustainable agriculture, no better place to start than this 13 Bean Soup recipe hearty, refined, and restaurant ready.