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Agricultural sustainability and intensive production practices

Abstract

A doubling in global food demand projected for the next 50 years poses huge challenges for the sustainability both of food production and of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and the services they provide to society. Agriculturalists are the principal managers of global useable lands and will shape, perhaps irreversibly, the surface of the Earth in the coming decades. New incentives and policies for ensuring the sustainability of agriculture and ecosystem services will be crucial if we are to meet the demands of improving yields without compromising environmental integrity or public health.

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Figure 1: Agricultural trends over the past 40 years.
Figure 2: Diminishing returns of fertilizer application imply that further applications may not be as effective at increasing yields.
Figure 3: Long-term trends in average per capita food supply.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the National Science Foundation for support and N. Larson for assistance.

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Tilman, D., Cassman, K., Matson, P. et al. Agricultural sustainability and intensive production practices. Nature 418, 671–677 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature01014

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