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: Two Helmets Cooking, Fava beans, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
18 February 2019

This article on the environmental impacts of different types of animal feed (including fishmeal, soy, fava beans, algae and various forage crops) features commentary from FCRN member Sam Smith, who has contributed to the Feed Compass work by Forum for the Future.

18 February 2019

This book discusses options for sustainable weed control for a variety of crops. Topics covered include the impacts of herbicides on people, soils and ecosystems, integrated weed management, and herbicide resistance.

18 February 2019

71% of European Union farmland is used to feed livestock and 18% to 20% of the EU’s total budget goes to livestock farms, according to this report by NGO Greenpeace.

Image: chipmuk_1, 20120208_1648 Chicago O'Hare Airport Vertical Farm, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
11 February 2019

Bayer Crop Science writes about several case studies in vertical farming, including agrilution (hydroponics farming in Germany), Comcrop (Singapore’s first rooftop commercial farm) and Sky Greens (a vertical farm in Singapore).

11 February 2019

This book, by Mark Gibson, gives a broad overview of the development of the food industry and drivers of food supply, including information on food waste, genetic modification, food safety, politics and social trends.

Image: herbert2512, Sheep flock of, Pixabay, Pixabay license
11 February 2019

This paper uses economic models to calculate the extent to which both supply-side and demand-side measures could reduce non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector, depending on carbon price.

Image: Max Pixel, Plant field summer, Creative Commons CC0
4 February 2019

These three audio reports from the Wall Street Journal explore the impact of climate change on commercial fisheries, cattle genetically engineered to tolerate higher temperatures, and how advances in artificial intelligence and genetics could help farmers to withstand crop disease and droughts.

Image: USDA, A person's hands in soil with a worm, Flickr, Public domain
4 February 2019

This paper models the relationship between soil organic matter and yields of maize and wheat, finding that while higher soil organic carbon (a proxy for soil organic matter) levels do generally correspond to higher yields, the yields taper off at around 2% soil organic matter.

Image: Narek75, Tomato harvesting in Armenia, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
4 February 2019

This paper maps interruptions to food production across the world between 1961 and 2013 and highlights the links and tradeoffs between events in different food sectors, including crops, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture.

29 January 2019

In this podcast by social impact careers organisation 80,000 Hours, engineer David Denkenberger argues that it would be possible to feed everyone even in the event of a disaster that disrupts agriculture, such as a nuclear winter or asteroid strike.

29 January 2019

This book explores 18 case studies of family farming across several continents through a ‘sustainable rural livelihood’ framework. The authors are from both academia and development bodies.

Image: congerdesign, Chicks hatch eggshell, Pixabay, Pixabay license
22 January 2019

A new process, Seleggt, can determine the sex of a chick before it hatches from the egg, avoiding the culling of unwanted male chicks in the egg industry (which often happens by feeding live chicks into shredding machines). The first eggs produced using the process are on sale in Berlin.

22 January 2019

This book, edited by Pasquale Ferranti, Elliot Berry and Anderson Jock, offers readers a ‘one-stop’ resource on food security and sustainability. It has been written by both academics and practitioners.

15 January 2019

This book, edited by Rachid Serraj and Prabhu Pingali, explores the threats and opportunities that global agricultural and food systems are likely to face between now and 2050. Chapter topics include global drivers and megatrends, urbanisation, technological innovation and intensification of agriculture.

15 January 2019

This policy briefing, by FCRN member Peter Stevenson of Compassion in World Farming, argues that industrial animal agriculture will make it difficult to reach several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

15 January 2019

In this report, the Barilla Centre for Food & Nutrition uses findings from the Food Sustainability Index to investigate best practices in food sustainability, focusing on sustainable agriculture, nutritional challenges, and food loss and waste.

15 January 2019

The EAT-Lancet Commission sets out a “universal healthy reference diet” that it argues will allow the food system to remain within the planetary boundaries while feeding 10 billion people by 2050. The suggested diet includes a variety of plant-based foods and low amounts of animal-based foods.

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