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Farming a better planet

last modified Sep 25, 2015 03:28 PM

A new paper by the Tanentzap group has been published in this month's issue of PLoS Biology. The paper provides an overview of policies that can reduce the impact of farming on the natural environment.  Using case studies and large economic databases, Tanentzap et al. argue that financially subsidising farmers for countryside stewardship rather than production can alleviate pressure on the natural environment.  A preliminary analysis provides clear evidence that such agri-environmental schemes do deliver wins for the environment when measured at a national scale, and work is ongoing in the Tanentzap group to measure the responses of biodiversity and water quality in more depth.  Of course, any efforts to reduce the environmental cost of farming might suppress yields and displace production elsewhere to meet global food demands.  The paper ends by arguing that coordinated approaches in more sustainable intensification will be needed to feed the world without costing the planet.

Tanentzap AJ, Lamb A, Walker S, Farmer A (2015) Resolving Conflicts between Agriculture and the Natural Environment. PLoS Biol 13(9): e1002242. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002242

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Pivot irrigator transforming sensitive dry land ecosystems in South Island, New Zealand (credit: Peter Scott)