Feeding the future: Sustainable agriculture

With the population exceeding 6.7 billion and growing by over 6 million a month, the need to protect agricultural land and to increase food production has become critical. Does sustainable agriculture have the answers?

Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs is the key principle behind the concept of sustainability.  If natural resources such as soil, nutrients and water are used up at a rate faster than they are replenished, then the farming system is unsustainable.  Sustainability is also dependent on maintaining a high level of biodiversity, especially in the soil and the surrounding environment.

Some of the biggest threats to sustainable agriculture are loss of biodiversity, dryland salinity, acid soils and pests and weeds.  Farmers, scientists and agricultural authorities are working together on approaches to deal with them.

Sustainable agriculture is a simple concept that embraces a complex web of scientific and economic issues.  Developments in information technology will play a key role in managing the complexity.

To achieve sustainable agriculture we must deal both with issues involving environmental impacts and productivity of the land. The farmer-focused agricultural organisations in Australia are working with researchers to develop farming systems that are both sustainable and profitable.

More information on this topic is available on the Australian Academy of Science’s Nova: Science for curious minds.

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