Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Primary production: Agriculture

Agricultural production sits at the heart of major societal concerns, spanning food security, nutrition and health; livelihoods and development; the environment;and animal ethics. In early history, the farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that allowed for the development of sedentary civilisation. Later, the Green Revolution of the twentieth century allowed for large groups of people, especially in developed countries, to “move off the land” and improved food supplies across much of the world. Yet while innovations in modern agronomy, plant and animal breeding, pesticides and fertilizer use have greatly increased food output, much environmental harm arising from these practices has occurred while concerns are also growing around excess calories and poor nutrition, leading to obesity and associated non communicable diseases as well as micronutrient deficiencies. Many of the 1.3 billion people worldwide who rely directly or indirectly on agriculture for their living face problems arising from imbalanced power structures, including poor working conditions, uncertain land use and tenure, and lack of access to inputs, infrastructure, capital and knowledge; these imbalances play out along the whole of the food value chain, between the genders, within country populations and across countries and regions. As to the environment, agriculture is responsible for some 20% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions of which about half arise directly from crop and livestock production and the other half from agriculturally induced land use change. It is also the main cause of deforestation and biodiversity loss, a major user and polluter of scarce water resources and responsible for the disruption of global nitrogen and phosphorus cycles.

4 November 2019

This book gives examples of practices and tools that can help agriculture adapt to climate change, focusing on Japan and other nearby Asian countries.

4 November 2019

This book addresses sustainability problems in modern animal agriculture and proposes solutions on topics such as biotechnology, feed production techniques and disease management.

4 November 2019

This brief from Trase (a partnership between the Stockholm Environment Institute and Global Canopy) examines soy grown on unregistered farms in Brazil. Legally, farms in Brazil should be registered with the Rural Environmental Registry as the first step of complying with the Forest Code, which stipulates how much native vegetation should be left intact on private properties.

Image: Bob Jones, Harvested wheat field, Geograph, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
4 November 2019

This paper models the changes in vegetation and agricultural land use that might be expected if action is not taken to mitigate climate change. Temperatures in the UK would increase by around 5.4°C in the growing season and 4.7°C out of the growing season by the end of the century. The growing season would become drier by around 37% and the non-growing season would become 7% wetter, with drying being less pronounced in the north of the UK than the rest of the country.

29 October 2019

This book discusses how networks of wireless sensors could be used in African agriculture, e.g. to minimise conflicts between wildlife, people and livestock, or to monitor livestock health.

29 October 2019

The book Food for All in Africa: Sustainable Intensification for African Farmers argues that the way forward for African agriculture is to produce greater yields with fewer inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides.

29 October 2019

The 2019 edition of the Global Agricultural Productivity Report from Virginia Tech University emphasises the systemic nature of the many challenges facing food, health and environment and calls for increased agricultural productivity as a way of meeting future food demand sustainably.

29 October 2019

According to this report from UK charity the Pesticide Action Network and the Soil Association, mixtures of pesticides can be more harmful to human health than the sum of the toxicity of the individual pesticides would suggest. 

Image: Local Food Initiative, Topping broad bean plants, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
29 October 2019

FCRN members Laurence Smith and Adrian Williams co-authored this paper, which finds that converting all food production in England and Wales to organic farming would reduce direct agricultural emissions in the UK, but would cause higher emissions from overseas farming due to lower yields in England and Wales.

22 October 2019

This book summarises current best practice in using life cycle assessment to quantify and improve the environmental impacts of different agricultural systems. 

Image: Lynn Betts, USDA, Fertilizer applied to corn field, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
22 October 2019

This paper outlines the main sustainability challenges linked to nitrogen, including inadequate access to nitrogen fertiliser in some parts of the world and excessive fertiliser application in other areas, leading to water pollution, algal blooms and risks to human health. The paper argues that solving nitrogen problems would have co-benefits for other sustainability issues such as hunger, air, soil and water quality, climate and biodiversity.

Image: Waldo93, pollo gallina pollame, Pixabay, Pixabay License
8 October 2019

This review paper finds that the number of bacterial strains that are resistant to antimicrobials is increasing in both pigs and chickens. The paper synthesises hundreds of studies from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to develop maps of antimicrobial resistance. Hotspots of antimicrobial resistance are found in India and China, with resistance also developing in Brazil and Kenya.

2 October 2019

This report from the UK charity Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) provides the latest estimates for food losses and food waste in primary production (i.e. on farms) in the UK. It finds that 3% of food harvested is wasted at the farm stage (sent to waste treatment such as composting without first being used for another purpose, or left in the field) and 4% is surplus (material intended for food uses that ends up being redistributed to people, fed to animals or used for other purposes), making a total of 7%.

18 September 2019

FCRN member David Cleveland has co-authored this book, which addresses how food gardens can be used by people to respond to climate change through both adaptation and mitigation.

18 September 2019

The book Grilled: Turning adversaries into allies to change the chicken industry describes how animal rights campaigner Leah Garcés sought to change the industry by engaging poultry producers in a dialogue instead of shaming them.

18 September 2019

This report sets out the plans of the UK’s NFU (National Farmers Union) to make emissions from agriculture in England and Wales net zero by 2040. It calls for collaboration between farmers, government and NGOs to reduce emissions through improved production efficiency, carbon capture through land management, and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

Image: Alexandra Pugachevsky, Phosphate Mining at SNPT, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
18 September 2019

This paper reviews the literature on the supply chain of phosphorus, a nutrient required in agriculture, and finds that current reporting is inadequate regarding phosphorus reserves and resources, losses along the supply chain, environmental and sociopolitical externalities, and open access to data.

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