• Does Farming Need to Change?

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Does Farming Need to Change?

Aug 31 2020

The way in which farmers around the world operate must change in order to avoid excessive consumption of land and help promote biodiversity, according to hundreds of scientists from a multitude of countries. Their collaborative correspondence letter, which was published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, calls for farmers to transition towards a system of food cultivation that is based upon agroecological principles.

This, they argue, will not only address the myriad problems that the agricultural industry creates for the natural environment that it usurps and disturbs, but also lead to more robust ecosystems, greater crop yields and enhanced food security for all. “Agroecology has the potential to change the way we ‘do agriculture’,” explained Professor Teja Tscharntke, co-author on the paper. “We hope that our comprehensive research agenda will help to chart the path to sustainable, diversified agriculture and biodiversity conservation in the future.”

The double-edged sword of agriculture

It’s undeniable that we require food to continue living, making agricultural an industry that is integral to the ongoing survival of the human race. Nonetheless, the practice can have disastrous effects on other flora and fauna, as well as create significant emissions which harm the environment. Currently, over one-third of the world’s total landmass is given over to farming, with deforestation and habitat destruction major ecological concerns.

Irrigation of crops also consumes vast amounts of water, meaning that the agriculture-water interface is critical to the environment given that the precious resource is in short supply as things stand. Meanwhile, excessive use of fertilisers and pesticides can negatively impact all kinds of plants and animals, with 62% of all species on the planet put in danger by standard farming practices. With that in mind, more than 360 scientists from 42 nations around the world have come together to ask the agricultural community – and the governments which regulate them – to place an emphasis on agroecology going forwards.

A timely intervention

The scientists’ letter coincides with World Environment Day 2020, which concentrated on biodiversity, and comes in advance of the 15th Convention of the Parties (COP15), which has been rescheduled to meet in China for a UN Biodiversity Conference in 2021. The Conference will focus on how agricultural practices can be amended to reduce their detrimental impacts on other species and the correspondence letter outlines a blueprint aimed at doing exactly that.

Among other practices, the authors call for farmers to re-envision their crop fields to accommodate biodiversity, encourage interaction and connectivity between different protected areas and enhance the resilience of certain species to the inevitable environmental changes that are on the horizon. By pursuing technological innovation and working closely alongside indigenous communities and farmers, the agricultural world can diversify the crops that it grows, improve its yields and guarantee food security for the planet’s ever-increasing population in one fell swoop.

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