Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Digital agriculture to design sustainable agricultural systems

The global food system must become more sustainable. Digital agriculture — digital and geospatial technologies to monitor, assess and manage soil, climatic and genetic resources — illustrates how to meet this challenge so as to balance the economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainable food production.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: DA in agricultural systems.


  1. 1.

    Double Burden of Malnutrition (World Health Organization, 2020);

  2. 2.

    Springmann, M. et al. Nature 562, 519–525 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Schramski, J. R., Woodson, C. B. & Brown, J. H. Nat. Sustain. (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Sachs, J. D. The Age of Sustainable Development (Columbia Univ. Press, 2015).

  5. 5.

    Pretty, J. et al. Nat. Sustain. 1, 441–446 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Gebbers, R. & Adamchuk, V. I. Science 327, 828–831 (2010).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Walter, A., Finger, R., Huber, R. & Buchmann, N. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 114, 6148–6150 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Schimmelpfennig, D. Farm Profits and Adoption of Precision Agriculture ERR-217 (US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 2016);

  9. 9.

    Cox, C. & Rundquist, S. Polluted Runoff: A Broken Promise Threatens Drinking Water in the Heartland (Environmental Working Group, 2018);

  10. 10.

    Basso, B., Shuai, G., Zhang, J. & Robertson, G. P. Sci. Rep. 9, 5774 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Schulte, L. A. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 114, 11247–11252 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Barron-Gafford, G. A. et al. Nat. Sustain. 2, 848–855 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Robertson, G. P. et al. Science 356, eaal2324 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Capalbo, S. M., Antle, J. M. & Seavert, C. Agric. Syst. 155, 191–199 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Transforming Agriculture with Artificial Intelligence (CTA SPORE, 2019);

  16. 16.

    Smith, P. et al. Glob. Change Biol. 19, 2285–2302 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research was supported by the US Department of Agriculture/National Institute for Food and Agriculture (awards 2015-68007-23133 and 2018-67003-27406), US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research (awards DESC0018409 and DE-FC02-07ER64494) and Michigan State University AgBioResearch. We thank G. P. Robertson, P. Grace, S. Swinton, J. Hatfield, R. Martinez-Feria, S. Archontoulis, J. Jones and J. Ritchie for their comments on previous versions of this manuscript.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Bruno Basso.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Basso, B., Antle, J. Digital agriculture to design sustainable agricultural systems. Nat Sustain 3, 254–256 (2020).

Download citation

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing