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Scientists say that it is possible to intensify agricultural production without increasing the damage to the environment

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Posted August 17, 2018

Eco-friendly farming techniques are better for the environment and food is healthier. However, sustainable farming is thought to be less productive – without an extensive use of chemicals the yield is smaller. Now an international study, involving researchers from the University of York has shown that the shift towards more sustainable agricultural techniques can actually increase the food production.

Sustainable intensification of agriculture is possible and should be encouraged. Image credit: Johannes Jansson/norden.org via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.5 dk)

How can it be? Well, scientists are talking about the sustainable intensification of agriculture – something that was thought to be impossible not so long ago. This term refers to intensifying agricultural production without increasing the damage to the environment. This approach is currently being implemented on 163 million farms worldwide. Scientists wanted to see what the effects of the sustainable intensification are and launched an international study, involving scientists from the UK, USA, Sweden, Ethiopia and New Zealand. With this research scientists were trying to see whether a long-held belief that increasing agricultural production has an inevitable negative impact on environment.

The world needs more food. The population is growing and there are more and more hungry mouths to feed. This means that the food production has to increase, but can it be done without damaging the environment? Professor Sue Hartley, co-author of the assessment, said: “The use of techniques such as integrated pest management, agroforestry, and micro-irrigation is expanding and are now being practiced on 29% of farms worldwide, with the greatest advances in low and middle income countries”. Scientists note that this brings both agricultural and environmental benefits. This means that the sustainable intensification of agriculture is a win-win situation.

This intensification is being pushed by scientific advancements and better technology. Now farmers can analyse their fields better and implement pest control and irrigation techniques that were not available not so long ago. Scientists say that now it is up to policy makers to introduce laws and regulations that would push sustainable intensification even further. Researchers also say that the sustainable intensification of agriculture is approaching its tipping point, where it would become transformative.

Making more food – that is the most important goal we have right now in terms of agriculture. However, environmental factors cannot be disregarded either and scientists have to see how we can feed our people without destroying biodiversity and preserving the nature out planet still has.

 

Source: University of York

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