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Reconciling Agricultural Productivity and Environmental Integrity: A Grand Challenge for Agriculture

G. Philip Robertson and Scott M. Swinton
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Vol. 3, No. 1, Visions for an Ecologically Sustainable Future (Feb., 2005), pp. 38-46
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/3868443
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3868443
Page Count: 9
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Reconciling Agricultural Productivity and Environmental Integrity: A Grand Challenge for Agriculture
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Abstract

Agriculture meets a major human need and both affects and depends on all other life support systems. Current trends point to continued human population growth and ever higher levels of consumption as the global economy expands. This will stress the capacity of agriculture to meet food needs without further sacrificing the environmental integrity of local landscapes and the global environment. Agriculture's main challenge for the coming decades will be to produce sufficient food and fiber for a growing global population at an acceptable environmental cost. This challenge requires an ecological approach to agriculture that is largely missing from current management and research portfolios. Crop and livestock production systems must be managed as ecosystems, with management decisions fully informed of environmental costs and benefits. Currently, too little is known about important ecological interactions in major agricultural systems and landscapes and about the economic value of the ecosystem services associated with agriculture. To create agricultural landscapes that are managed for multiple services in addition to food and fiber will require integrative research, both ecological and socioeconomic, as well as policy innovation and public education.

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