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CAB Reviews

A reviews journal covering agriculture, global health, nutrition, natural resources and veterinary science

CAB Review Open Access

Conservation agriculture systems.

Abstract

Despite positive trajectories in global production during the last century, projected food demand and limits on our ability to further expand cropland now dictate an increase in food production by roughly 70% during the first half of the twenty-first century. Conventional systems of agriculture with their general emphasis on intensive soil disturbance, limited biodiversity, monoculture cropping and practices that mine the resource base are extractive and have resulted in slow yet demonstrably severe environmental degradation that ultimately jeopardizes food security for future generations. Because future gains in production are unlikely to be achieved by further increases in genetic yield potential, as have been achieved in the past, applications of new production system paradigms are going to be indispensable. Our existing ones are no longer able to compensate for, nor reverse, the environmental problems they have caused. We summarize the history of how agricultural systems have come to be what they are today and identify ways in which these systems will need to be improved to meet future food security challenges. We describe the development of food production system options that have been proposed in recent decades and show that the core principles and concepts of what are widely regarded as conservation agriculture (CA) systems provide an important unifying framework. Our chapter provides evidence for why these systems, when flexibly applied and in ways that mimic natural ecosystems, provide a best-bet approach for moving forward. We highlight a series of examples of CA systems being applied around the world and conclude by issuing a call to action aimed at developing and more widely adopting food production systems that look long-term, mimic natural systems and transcend jargon.

CAB Review details

  • History
  • Published: 29 May 2019
  • ISSN
  • 1749-8848
  • Publisher information
  • CABI Wallingford UK
  • Language of Summary
  • English
  • Record Number
  • 20193184383