Innovative agricultural technologies and best farm management practices, combine with attention to ecosystem services, drive productivity growth and can be tailored for all scales of production.
Agricultural technologies that enable producers to increase their output using the same amount, or less, land, labor, capital, and other inputs, are the primary drivers of productivity growth.
Yet, technology alone is insufficient to achieve long-term TFP gains. A farm management system that utilizes the appropriate agricultural technologies and practices, complemented by the attention to ecosystem services, can realize short-term productivity gains and increase them over time, while strengthening their resilience to weather and economic shocks. 1
Agricultural ecosystems are defined by the plants, water, soil, air, microbes, and animals in and around areas where agricultural activity takes place. The interaction between these elements create benefits, or ecosystem services, that make agriculture more productive, sustainable, and resilient.
Ecosystem services include pollination, erosion prevention, carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, soil fertility, air and water quality control, and pest and disease management.
The economic value of ecosystem services is not captured in TFP, yet they are the “natural capital” of the agricultural system.
The CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems estimates that the value of pollination services provided by wild bees, insects, and birds exceeds $150 million annually.²
By combining agricultural technologies with best practices and attention to ecosystem services, agricultural producers can reduce net GHG emissions to half of current levels by 2050, while still providing for global food and agriculture needs.³
Improved crop genetics increase yield, preventing the conversion of biodiverse habitats to crop production. Locally cultivated crop varieties contain genetic material that improves the productivity and climate resilience of hybrid and biotech seeds.
Rotating crops with legumes and planting cover crops can preserve soil nutrients, increase the soil’s water-holding capacity, and improve soil carbon sequestration.
Reduced or no-till systems prevent erosion, soil degradation, and carbon loss. Improvements in precision agriculture and data analytics, in combination with high yielding, herbicide-tolerant crops, make it easier for farmers to adopt tillage management systems.
WATER AND NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT
When nutrients are properly managed, particularly through precision systems, over-application can be avoided, runoff reduced and emissions minimized. Precision and drip irrigation, ensure efficient use of minimal amounts of water to increase yields.
Combining livestock production and food crops on land where timber and trees are grown conserves carbon and nutrients in the soil, improves the profitability of tree production, prevents erosion, and provides shade for animals.
PEST CONTROL AND POLLINATION
Flowering strips, hedgerows, and small forest patches near cropped areas create habitats for insects and animals that provide pollination and pest control.
Integrating animals, feed crops, and aquaculture production increases productivity and reduces producer costs by recycling nutrients through a closed system.
Cows, goats, and sheep eat agricultural by-products that are not consumable by humans and recycle them into nutritious animal proteins and fertilizer. Improved feed and forages, advanced animal genetics, and better animal care practices reduce methane emissions created in the digestive process, while increasing milk, egg, and meat output per animal.