For centuries, agronomy (the crop, soil and plant sciences) has contributed to many improvements in agricultural production and increases in crop yields. Today, agronomists consult with farmers on opportunities to adopt new and innovative approaches to improve crop productivity and lower their carbon footprint. But do consumers know there are many practices in effect that create benefits for the environment?
Sustainable Agriculture Practices Today
While farming looks different across the U.S. based on regions and crops grown, there are already many commonsense sustainability efforts in place, including:
Crop rotation to maintain soil fertility and manage pests
Soil conservation techniques, such as no-till or minimum tillage to protect soil from wind and erosion
Cover crops, such as rye or clover, planted in between crop cycles to help prevent soil erosion and improve nutrients in the soil
Integrated pest management, which combines a variety of pest control tools to minimize risk and damage
Precision agriculture, which targets the application of inputs, fertilizer and water to increase efficiency and minimize waste
Water conservation, through precision irrigation and soil monitoring to avoid overwatering
Site-specific application of fertilizer to minimize runoff into bodies of water
Conservation of wildlife habitat through buffer strips or the inclusion of native plants to support biodiversity and beneficial insects
Livestock management practices, such as rotational grazing, to prevent overgrazing and soil degradation
According to the USDA, increasing agricultural productivity with less total input (land, water, labor and capital) over the last 50 years has helped reduce poverty, increase food availability, decrease biodiversity loss and support economic growth.
Raising Awareness of Sustainability Practices
Sustainable practices in agriculture already play a crucial role in protecting the environment. Effective communication about these positive effects can help build consumer trust and reassurance. Those of us who work in the communications industry can help build consumer awareness through the following efforts:
Educational campaigns to share successful stories and impacts of sustainable practices
Feature certifications and farming practices on product labels and packaging
Promote farmer sustainability stories in media
Raise awareness about company partnerships that prioritize sustainability
Most importantly, telling the story of sustainable agriculture may also spark new, innovative ideas that further contribute to protecting the future of the planet.