Agricultural policies should focus more on developing and rewarding sustainable, multifunctional landscapes that benefit both varied commodity production and the environment, and less on merely maximizing crop yield, according to a policy forum article in a recent edition of the journal Science.
The paper, “Sustainable Development of the Agricultural Bio-Economy”, is a call to action by 14 researchers in the Green Lands, Blue Waters consortium.
A sustainable approach to developing the bioeconomy requires that we raise the level of conversation about what we call “multifunctional” agriculture. It can be thought of, in its simplest form, as having strategic production goals for both commodity and environmental benefits.
Most plant research is based on producing the highest yield. But there are additional benefits to be gained by using a broader approach that also considers concerns about climate change, wildlife habitat, soil and water, and healthy economies in rural areas.—Jeri Neal, Iowa State University
The keys are more extensive and diverse uses of perennial crops and compensating farmers for the environmental benefits they provide.
The authors propose a national innovation system (funded by a $20 million annual federal investment) to foster dialogue about policy alternatives and a network of research and demonstration projects to research real-world complexities on a life-size scale, with efforts evaluated scientifically and guided by research results.
Green Lands, Blue Water is a consortium of land-grant universities and agricultural, environmental and rural development non-profit organizations. The research study was led by Nick Jordan, professor in agronomy and plant genetics at the University of Minnesota. It was funded by the Kellogg Foundation and the Coastal Oceans Program of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
“Sustainable Development of the Agricultural Bio-Economy”; N. Jordan, G. Boody, W. Broussard, J. D. Glover, D. Keeney, B. H. McCown, G. McIsaac, M. Muller, H. Murray, J. Neal, C. Pansing, R. E. Turner, K. Warner, D. Wyse; Science 15 June 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5831, pp. 1570 - 1571 DOI: 10.1126/science.1141700