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.

Image: Valcenteu, VertiCrop System, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
13 February 2018

Indoor and vertical farming might not replace traditional farms, but they bring their own unique benefits.​

13 February 2018

The China-UK Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Network (SAIN) has released an information sheet on the state of China’s agricultural sector in 2017.

Image: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 20180124-OSEC-PJK-1015_TONED_1, Flickr, Creative Commons Public Domain Mark 1.0
6 February 2018

The Protein Challenge 2040's new report, 'The feed behind our food', sets out why retailers and food service businesses should act on sustainability in animal feed.

Photo: 20130712-AMS-LSC-0396, US Department of Agriculture, Flickr, Public Domain Mark 1.0
6 February 2018

This study by researchers in the US used a theoretical approach to work out how much beef could be produced in the US if the cows were raised solely on pasturelands and by-products, and what the environmental and nutritional ramifications of repurposing the freed up cropland would be.

21 January 2018

This feature in the newly launched journal Nature Sustainability focuses on the growth of urban agriculture in the US due to increased availability of unused land and innovative development of urban farms and community gardens.

13 January 2018

This book by Helmut Traitler, Michel Dubois, Keith Heikes, Vincent Petiard, David Zilberman provides an overview of current food systems and potential future directions for agriculture and food.

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Photo: Raúl Hernández González, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
8 January 2018

This article presents the results from a new global soil erosion model, based on a combination of remote sensing, GIS modelling and census data. It finds that accelerated soil erosion due to land use change between 2001 and 2012 is a major threat to soil and future agriculture but that previous commonly used estimates of annual global soil erosion were twice too high. In comparison with previous studies which had a mapping resolution of around 10–60 km cell size, this model with its high-resolution 250m cell size has far greater predictive power than any previous model. 

Photo: Marco Verch, Tofu-Würfel mit Soße, Reis und Brechbohnen, Flickr, CC by 2.0
12 December 2017

This piece by the international NGO Futures Centre highlights the emergence of some innovative solutions that could help the transition to a sustainable protein consumption and production system.

Photo: Linda N., New crops, Flickr, CC by 2.0
12 December 2017

Targetting the food-energy-water nexus, this review by FCRN members Eugene Mohareb and Martin Heller and colleagues summarises the energy implications of various types of urban agriculture. The goal of their research is to identify resource efficiency opportunities while increasing urban food production.

12 December 2017

This Research Handbook, edited by Mary Jane Angelo, Fredric G. Levin and Anél Du Plessis, brings together scholars from across disciplines and across the globe (including FCRN member Jonathan Verschuuren) to untangle the climate-food web and critically explore the nexus between climate change, agriculture and law, upon which food security and climate resilient development depends. It is a useful introduction to the research which is being undertaken in the area of climate change and agricultural law.

12 December 2017

This new book, edited by Michel. P. Pimbert, Director at the Center for Agroecology, Water and Resilience in the U.K., critically examines the kinds of knowledge and ways of knowing needed for food sovereignty, agroecology and biocultural diversity.

12 December 2017

Scientists from national academies across Europe are calling for urgent action on food and nutrition in a new independent report published by the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC). This analysis can be relevant for policy-makers working on food, nutrition, health, the environment, climate change, and agriculture.

12 December 2017

The planetary boundaries concept provides a theoretical upper limit on human activity which the planet is able to sustain without major perturbation to the current ‘Earth system’. Previously, nine planetary boundaries (PBs) have been proposed and recently Steffen et al. (2015) have updated these boundary definitions and assessed the current state of the position of human activity with respect to each boundary. In this article, researchers from a number of food, climate change, agricultural and environmental research institutions around the world build on this work by assessing the impact of agriculture on each PB status, based on a detailed literature review of the available research.

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