People have been fighting, experimenting, and inventing in the name of food and access to natural resources since the beginning of humanity. Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, advancements in technology and innovation skyrocketed. The constant improvements experienced in industrial productivity were mirrored, thanks to new technology, by the agriculture industry and resulted in the ability to grow, raise and distribute food like never before. But how have these agricultural adjustments impacted the environment? And how can we help prevent destructive practices from taking away the ability to provide for our population in the future?
The consequences of modern agricultural practices seem only recently to be taking the spotlight in the fight for sustainability. Modern-day people, especially those residing in large metropolitan areas, have become accustomed to accessing the food of their choice with speed, ease, and convenience. Unfortunately, these luxuries have also proven to come at a steep cost. Let’s take a look at the significance of water, soil, and crops in the future of agriculture and how each of these categories influences the health of the planet and the prosperity of upcoming generations.
Currently, 70% of global groundwater withdrawals are used in the agricultural industry. Despite this, 17% of global food production is wasted yearly. In fact, the United States alone wastes a whopping 30 to 40 percent of its food supply. Water is the most consumed product on the planet. Yet, it is NOT a renewable resource. This means that if community and industry leaders fail to prioritize water conservation efforts, water scarcity could become a reality for a greater part of the population sooner than anticipated.
Already in 2023, the United Nations reported that 2 billion people, or 26% of the world population, do not have access to safe drinking water, and 3.6 billion, or 46% of the population, are unable to access safe sanitation. These numbers not only demonstrate a severe lack of regulation in water consumption but a drastic fault in the agricultural industry. One that prioritizes profits through high-volume production over environmental health, longevity, and sustainability. With an already strained fresh water supply, conservative practices and waste reduction should be the number one goal for everyone, both within the agricultural industry as well as from a consumer standpoint.
We don’t often think of the soil used to grow our food. Yet, sustainable soil management is one of the fundamental keys to securing sustainability in agriculture. Thanks to the discoveries of the green revolution, which resulted in significantly greater crop yields and revolutionary technology still used to this day, the way we grow our food changed dramatically. However, the increased use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and overuse of the land have led to nutrient loss and high levels of erosion in the soil around the world. Historically, this has been shown to feed into the consequences of natural disasters like floods or droughts. The Dust Bowl, for example, which devastated the south-central United States in the 1930s thanks to a series of unfortunate events including severe droughts and the Great Depression, was further exacerbated by irresponsible land management practices in the 1920s.
The intensity of natural disasters is only increasing thanks to climate change and could easily combine with improper soil management to result in devastating consequences like the Dust Bowl if precautions are not taken. Thankfully some modern-day farmers have taken note of this, not just in terms of the planet but for their own businesses, and are now implementing practices such as crop rotation, reduced tilling, and the use of cover crops to limit erosion, increase water infiltration rates and improve overall soil health by promoting biodiversity. As a consumer, embracing a more diverse diet and making sure to eat crops that are in season could also help encourage these measures.
Finally, crop selection can have a significant impact on the environment. This is because, nowadays, many of the crops planted in our fields are not fully resistant to the environment where they are being grown. This can make certain crops, for example, almonds, extremely water intensive. Additionally, failing to alternate the types of crops that are plants, also known as crop rotation, makes the land vulnerable to disease, erosion, and nutrient loss, increasing the need for fertilizers and pesticides and leading to lower crop yields over time.
Food is an essential part of life. However, without proper management and regulation, more can quickly equal less. With so much access to technology, food insecurity should be a thing of the past, not on the rise. At Smart Energy Education, we believe that sustainable agriculture is critical to a prosperous future. If you are interested in learning more about how our actions impact the planet and the amazing energy careers that can help create a brighter future, visit Smart Energy Education, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook!