Healthy soil is the real key to feeding the world

Cover crops

One of the biggest modern myths about agriculture is that organic farming is inherently sustainable. It can be, but it is not necessarily. After all, soil erosion from chemical-free tilled fields undermined the Roman Empire and other ancient societies around the world. Other agricultural myths hinder recognizing the potential to restore degraded soils to feed the world using fewer agrochemicals.

When I embarked on a six-month trip to visit farms around the world to research my forthcoming book, “Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life,” the innovative farmers I met showed me that regenerative farming practices can restore the world’s agricultural soils. In both the developed and developing worlds, these farmers rapidly rebuilt the fertility of their degraded soil, which then allowed them to maintain high yields using far less fertilizer and fewer pesticides.

Their experiences, and the results that I saw on their farms in North and South Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ghana, and Costa Rica, offer compelling evidence that the key to sustaining highly productive agriculture lies in rebuilding healthy, fertile soil. This journey also led me to question three pillars of conventional wisdom about today’s industrialized agrochemical agriculture: that it feeds the world, is a more efficient way to produce food and will be necessary to feed the future.

Myth 1: Large-scale agriculture feeds the world today

According to a recent U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, family farms produce over three-quarters of the world’s food. The FAO also estimates that almost three-quarters of all farms worldwide are smaller than one hectare – about 2.5 acres, or the size of a typical city block.

Only about 1 percent of Americans are farmers today. Yet most of the world’s farmers work the land to feed themselves and their families. So, while conventional industrialized agriculture feeds the developed world, most of the world’s farmers work small family farms. A 2016 Environmental Working Group report found that almost 90 percent of U.S. agricultural exports went to developed countries with few hungry people.The full article is for subscribed members only. To view the full article please subscribe. It’s FREE!Log In Register

Author

  • David R. Montgomery, Professor of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Please share this article with your friends!

Related Articles

All
  • All
  • Awards
  • Business
  • Crops
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Featured Article
  • Finance
  • Health
  • Hospitality
  • Human Resources
  • Irrigation
  • Latest News
  • Lifestyle
  • Livestock
  • Recipes
  • Soil
  • Under cover farming
  • Water
Boer van die maand

Boer van die Maand: Nollie Stofberg

Nollie Stofberg Ons boer van die maand vir Oktober is Nollie Stofberg van Swartwalle, Houmoed en Platdrif in die Rawsonville omgewing....
Education is key to improving the African agribusiness

Education is key to improving the African agribusiness

The South African agribusiness pool is filled with ample opportunities. Despite the various challenges facing the regional sectors, there seems to be a silver-lining for...
Water quality monitoring for aquaculture

New technology for water quality monitoring in intensive aquaculture

Aquaculture is increasingly considered as an integral component in the search for global world food security and economic development. The monitoring of farming processes can...
Posted in ,

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Advertisements