Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Production efficiency/intensity

Photo: Erik Edgren, Root, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0 generic.
4 April 2017

In this post in the Conversation, crop scientist Matthew Wallenstein, Associate Professor and Director at the Innovation Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Colorado State University, discusses the potential of natural microbes to improve agriculture and make it more sustainable. 

4 April 2017

In the latest in a series of articles seeking to shake up the conversation about food production and its trade-offs (see for example our previous summary of Elena Bennett’s Nature commentary, and the subsequent FCRN discussion forum), this opinion piece seeks to shift the focus of the discourse away from food production as the goal of agriculture, and towards food security, incorporating biodiversity outcomes.

Photo: jbloom, plate scraping, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0 Generic.
29 March 2017

This paper looks at how we can achieve greater food and nutrition security in a sustainable manner by reducing waste and it also analyses how losses impact overall food system efficiency.  It quantifies the food wasted throughout the food chain (10 stages) from primary production to human food consumption and also looks at the impact of livestock production on both food system biomass efficiency and feed crop losses. The paper defines wasted food energy of livestock production in terms of its poor efficiency in feed conversion ratios (ie. only some of the feed livestock consume end up as meat and dairy, with the rest loss via respiration, dung and urine). 

 
Photo: muffinn, Hallow – muck spreading, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0 Generic.
29 March 2017

This review assesses the performance of organic cropping systems as an approach to sustainable agriculture, and seeks to identify the contextual considerations (such as type of cropping system) that may affect this performance. The scope of the review is constrained to the level of the farming system (i.e. excludes considerations of other components of the food system, such as packaging or transport). In order to provide an unbiased assessment of organic farming as a means of sustainable agriculture, rather than approaching the question from the usual “What does organic farming do well/badly?” angle, the authors ask “What constitutes successful sustainable agriculture?” then measure organic farming against this yardstick.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Pesticide Spraying, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0.
15 March 2017

This Nature Plants paper by researchers from agroecological and agronomical research institutions in France used a statistical modelling approach to predict the effects of reducing pesticide use on the productivity and profitability of French arable farms.

Photo: Chafer machineries, Flickr, creative commons licence 2.0
8 March 2017

A recent paper published in BioScience articulates the need for a new vision and new goals for the sustainable intensification of agriculture, moving away from the often cited statement that food production must double by 2050 to feed the world's growing population.

7 March 2017

This FAO report identifies global trends and major drivers of change shaping the future of food and agriculture in the 21st century. It points to the advances that have been made within food and agriculture in the past years, analysing the current state of play and identifies a number of challenges that remain if we are to achieve FAO’s vision of a world free from hunger and malnutrition.

Photo credit: Leslie De Blasio, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
15 February 2017

This chapter by Elias Fereres and Francisco J. Villalobos in the book Principles of Agronomy for Sustainable Agriculture argues that sustainable intensification of production would be best achieved through continuous, small productivity improvements rather than through a few revolutionary discoveries, at least in the medium term.

8 February 2017

This report by Compassion for World Farming discusses the potential effects of a reduction in meat consumption in relation to the difference between ruminants such as cows and monogastrics such as pigs and poultry.

Photo credit: Lorraine, BEST of SHOW March 2010 - Oregon Society of Artists - Field Burning, Flickr, Creative Commons licence 2.0
22 November 2016

One of the greatest challenges of this century is figuring out how to feed more people, while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, just as other demands on land - for example, for sequestration and bioenergy production - are increasing. 

Photo credit: Michael Foley, Paddy harvest ballet, Flickr, Creative Commons licence 2.0
17 November 2016

Over the past half-century, the paradigm for agricultural development has been to maximize yields through intensifying production, especially for cereal crops. But achieving food security and building a healthy, resilient global food supply is about more than just the quantity of calories provided. New metrics of success and methods of evaluation are needed in order to measure progress towards meeting the world’s nutritional needs within environmental limits.

 Photo: Global Water Forum, Agriculture in China, Creative Commons License 2.0
4 October 2016

China’s influential Agricultural Development Bank has agreed to lend at least 3 trillion yuan (US$450 billion) by 2020 to China’s agriculture industry to promote a large scale modernisation process. The move was made together with the Ministry of Agriculture and included an agreement to protect national food security, develop China’s seed industry and support agricultural investors who wish to expand abroad.  

Photo: Wessel, Meat, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
4 October 2016

This study evaluates the attainability of sustainable targets for better integrating food security and environmental impacts. Many studies have looked at how much food production could increase given a plausible mitigation solution, for example if food waste was halved from 24% to 12% then an additional 1 billion people could be fed. These studies, however, lack a temporal component that this study attempts to include, which enables evaluation of whether these advances can keep pace with projected increases in human demand.

Photo: USFWS Mountain-Prairie, Wetlands in Croplands, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
28 September 2016

In this modelling study, the authors examine potential trade-offs between sufficient food provisioning in the future and sustaining biodiversity. On the one hand they find that cropland expansion increases food security, particularly in areas which are currently struggling with access to safe and nutritious food.

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