Learning Objects (12)
Direct Access Links:
What is Sustainable Agriculture? (Union of Concerned Scientists)
Precision Farming (National Geographic)
Transforming Agriculture, Perennially (The Land Institute)
Why Regenerative Agriculture Matters (Regeneration International)
What is Regenerative Agriculture? (Future of Agriculture)
The Future of Agriculture (The Economist)
Five Ways Future Farms Could Feed 9 Billion (National Geographic)
What is Genome Editing? (NIH)
Farming Microbes (Future of Agriculture)
Vertical Farms Need a Residential Piggyback (SmartCitiesDive)
Organic Sustainable Farming is the Future of Agriculture (YouTube)
Growing and Foraging 100% of My Food (YouTube)
For decades, we’ve produced the bulk of our food through industrial agriculture—a system dominated by large farms growing the same crops year after year, using enormous amounts of chemical pesticides and fertilizers that damage soils, water, air, and climate. This system is not built to last, because it squanders and degrades the resources that it depends on.
But a growing number of innovative farmers and scientists are taking a different path, moving toward a farming system that is more sustainable—environmentally, economically, and socially. This system has room for farms of all sizes, producing a diverse range of foods, fibers, and fuels adapted to local conditions and regional markets. It uses state-of-the-art, science-based practices that maximize productivity and profit while minimizing environmental damage. — Union of Concerned Scientists
Sustainable Agriculture / Agroecology
There’s a transformation taking place on farms across the United States. Agroecology is the science of managing farms as ecosystems. By working with nature rather than against it, farms managed using agroecological principles can avoid damaging impacts without sacrificing productivity or profitability.
The Future Found in the Past – Perennial Crop Practices
An estimated 10 billion people will inhabit the planet by 2050. Before humans cleared large areas of land, the landscape was dominated by perennial plants. The annual plants we plant today can be developed into perennial crops. This return to perennial farming could be a part of the solution for feeding the anticipated population growth. Watch this video to learn about the benefits of these crops and where they exist in our world today.
Today, annual crops account for roughly 70% of the human population’s food calories and the vast majority of planted croplands worldwide. But perennial plants do not have to be reseeded or replanted every year and don’t require annual plowing or herbicide applications to establish. Perennial crops are robust; they protect soil from erosion and improve soil structure. Overall, they help ensure food and water security over the long term.
Explore the work of The Land Institute not only in the area of perennial crops, but crop protect ecology, genetics and more. Access a wealth of informative articles and videos about food & water security and sustainability.
Farmers Fighting Climate Change Through Regeneration
Scientists tell us we’re nearly out of time to avert a climate-change disaster. Global warming will bring more droughts, hurricanes and other extreme weather events. It will create more food insecurity. It will force greater numbers of people to abandon their land and homes, worsening the migration crisis. It will lead to dwindling natural, human and financial resources, which in turn will lead to more poverty, the collapse of social support structures and greater political instability.
We must do two things if we hope to reverse global warming. First, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy alternatives. Second, we must draw down the tons of excess carbon already released into the atmosphere and sequester it in the soil by transitioning, on a global scale, to regenerative agriculture and land management practices.
Regeneration International defines regenerative agriculture as “farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity — resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle.”
The Merger of Technology & Agriculture
If agriculture is to continue to feed the world, it needs to become more like manufacturing. Fortunately, that is already beginning to happen. Farms are becoming more like factories: tightly controlled operations for turning out reliable products, immune as far as possible from the vagaries of nature. Thanks to better understanding of DNA, the plants and animals raised on a farm are also tightly controlled.
Modern Farming techniques and innovations like crop protection, selective breeding and artificial fertilizer have helped us to supply the demand, but with the population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, we need the next wave of innovations to ensure the right balance between producing more food and sustaining the planet.
Genome editing is a method that lets scientists change the DNA of many organisms, including plants, bacteria, and animals. Editing DNA can lead to changes in physical traits, like eye color, and disease risk. It’s possible to change a crop or stock animal’s genome down to the level of a single genetic “letter.”
Thanks to advancements in DNA sequencing and machine learning, scientists are able to single out microbes that can be beneficial to the way we grow food. If the concept of microbes is new to you, think of the last meal you ate. To digest that food, you relied on an ecosystem of microbes in your body that aid in digestion.
Exploring Farms of the Future – Big & Small
On their own, large vertical farms in the cityscape bring costs that may be insurmountable for a largely unproven model, but if the system was paired with high-end residential and positioned as an amenity then new crops could get the prime exposure they need to test their strength where it its needed most.
In this film, organic market gardeners Frank and Josje (New Zealand) talk about why the supermarket system doesn’t work and how Community Supported Agriculture fits into a new story for food growing. CSA members help farmers to grow the best quality vegetables and to nurture healthy soils by committing to receive a vegetable box every week for a season.
The Farmer in YOU
Rob Greenfield is an activist and humanitarian dedicated to leading the way to a more sustainable and just world. He embarks on extreme projects to bring attention to important global issues and inspire positive change. For one year he grew and foraged 100% of his food while empowering others to take back power from Big Ag. He built 15 “Gardens for the People,” planted over 200 Community Fruit Trees, sent out over 5,000 seed packs to help people grow their own organic, healthy food and he taught free gardening classes to the people in his community.
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