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Three Big Myths about Modern Agriculture

December 5th, 2018

Myths get in the way of our ability to restore degraded soils that can feed the world using fewer chemicals. Read this conversation with David R. Montgomery (2017) in the Scientific American.

MYTH 1: LARGE-SCALE AGRICULTURE FEEDS THE WORLD TODAY

According to a recent U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, family farms produce over three-quarters of the world’s food.

MYTH 2: LARGE FARMS ARE MORE EFFICIENT

Many high-volume industrial processes exhibit efficiencies at large scale that decrease inputs per unit of production. The more widgets you make, the more efficiently you can make each one. But agriculture is different. A 1989 a National Research Council study concluded that “well-managed alternative farming systems nearly always use fewer synthetic chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and antibiotics per unit of production than conventional farms.”

MYTH 3: CONVENTIONAL FARMING IS NECESSARY TO FEED THE WORLD

Comparing crop yields on conventional farms to those on organic farms, where cover crops were planted and crops were rotated to build soil health. the yield gap was below 10 percent.


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