The struggles of producing a sustainable food source

She honed in on agriculture when she spent time working on both urban and rural family farms during her college summers.

The struggles of producing a sustainable food source

Yield gaps for cereals, roots and tubers, pulses, sugar crops, oil crops and vegetables in [1] Soil health Crop productivity is also constrained by land management practices that lead to erosion, waterlogging and salinization salt build-upand loss of nutrients from soils.

Overgrazing, over-irrigation, using too much or too little inorganic fertilizer, ploughing and other mechanical disturbance all contribute to poor soils. Across Africa, for example, agriculture that removes soil nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus without replenishing them sometimes termed nutrient mining contributes to low crop productivity.

Phosphorus availability is a key concern. Phosphorus is essential for plant growth and, unlike nitrogen fertilizers, cannot be produced artificially. Phosphorus is mined from finite deposits that are expected to be depleted in years. Energy and climate change Another key constraint is energy availabilityspecifically of fossil fuels.

Modern agriculture is energy intensive — tractor and transport fuel, producing agri-chemicals and storing and processing food all depend on affordable fossil fuels.

So there are growing concerns about the carbon footprint of the agrifood sector.

The struggles of producing a sustainable food source

Agriculture contributes around And there are complex, context-specific impacts associated with climate change.

To adapt to these changes farmers will need knowledge, financial and social support and a package of context-specific technologies some old, some new. Fundamental transformation These challenges and constraints call for a fundamental transformation in agriculture across the world.

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Intensification is generally preferred as it spares other ecosystems from agricultural use. Table 1 shows global yield gaps for key agricultural commodities. Careful husbandry of plant and animal biodiversity has been practised since antiquity in home gardens and through the domestication of edible species.

Traditional irrigation techniques range from large-scale systems e. Applied in Asia and Latin America, these innovations contributed to substantial increases in food production in the early- to mid-twentieth century. Advances in plant breeding were based on Mendellian genetics.

In chemistry, the Haber-Bosch process developed by the German chemist Fritz Haber converted atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia fertiliser on an industrial scale. The improved seeds and fertilisers these developments brought were supported by irrigation infrastructure and machinery, expert advice and credit.

GM controversy There is controversy over whether GM can increase crop yields while conserving resources. GM crops in commercial cultivation mainly express two traits — herbicide tolerance and pest resistance. These traits promise higher yields with lower pesticide use. However, their impacts have been variable and depend on a range of external factors.

The struggles of producing a sustainable food source

These input-intensive practices were catalysed, in part, by inappropriate incentives and subsidies — highlighting the importance of governance for new technologies.

Where these incentives were removed, agricultural practice changed accordingly. For example, insecticide use fell after Indonesia dropped pesticide subsidies in the s.

Farmers with plenty of land, irrigation and credit benefited the most, while resource-constrained farmers, smallholders, or those farming marginal land benefitted largely indirectly — as a result of lower food costs and an increase in farm employment in favourable areas.

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There were also unintended nutritional outcomes of the Green Revolution. Some say GM crops are now "being taken up faster than any other agricultural technology since the plough 8, years ago, and are presently being used by 16 million farmers".

This lets scientists combine genetic material from multiple sources e. Several initiatives are seeking to develop and disseminate improved varieties of indigenous or traditional crops that have so far been neglected by privately funded biotechnology research.

The AOCC plans to make its data and findings freely accessible to researchers and breeders in Africa and elsewhere.

It is resilient to drought, waterlogging, diseases and pests. Research on improving tef varieties began in the s, but had limited success due to the lack of funding and research. Farmers who adopted the variety were supported with seed loans, training, regular follow-up and assistance from researchers and staff from local development agencies.

The number of farmers receiving training on tef production increased from to 6, from to Farmers have saved and distributed seeds amongst themselves in a well-developed informal seed system — and the initiative has spread rapidly.

Professor Tim Benton discusses issues around how to shape sustainable agriculture Breeding new crop varieties is only one of many options for resource-conserving and yield-enhancing agriculture.

Crop management systems Agroecology is developing new systems of crop management that increase yields while conserving resources. It is particularly effective at increasing food production while improving environmental and social outcomes.

Methods include systems such as agroforestry, conservation agriculture, the system of rice intensification, integrated pest management, the inclusion of aquaculture and small livestock into farming systems, water harvesting, soil conservation and integrated nutrient management.

A analysis of agroecological methods based on projects in 57 countries in the developing world, showed that projects increased crop yields by 64 per cent on average while improving water efficiency and carbon sequestration and reducing pesticide use.Yahoo Lifestyle is your source for style, beauty, and wellness, including health, inspiring stories, and the latest fashion trends.

There was a time (as recently as five years ago) when shopping for packaged foods that were made entirely of plant-based ingredients meant scouring the aisles of health food stores.

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Crickets are a delectable, affordable, and environmentally friendly protein source already eaten in some parts of the world.

Now the trick is producing them for the masses. His wife once.

WHO | Tobacco growing and the sustainable development goals, Malawi