What are some pros and cons of sustainable agriculture?

1 Answer
Mar 5, 2018

Crop output is improved, price is a little higher in some cases.


It'd take five pages to go through all the pros and cons, so I'll sum up the major ones.
1) Crop output. Data about sustainable agriculture suggests that crop output is actually improved because soil nutrients are consistently higher and never degrade, so crops always have a good source of nutrition. In addition, sustainable agriculture fosters growth of natural microbes that act symbiotically with plants to give them more nutrients. Basically sustainable agriculture means more profit overall.

2) Runoff and erosion. Both of these are significantly reduced in sustainable agriculture because crops can be rotated year-round, runoff from fertilizer is generally decreased, and, as mentioned previously, the healthier soil is less prone to erosion. An example that shows this is during the Dust Bowl, when unsustainable agriculture coupled with a drought caused massive crop die-off, and the topsoil completely disintegrated (hence the "dust" in "dust bowl").

3) Lower prices. Farmers don't have to spend money on artificial fertilizers because the soil is healthy and replenishes itself. They don't have to invest in expensive herbicides and pesticides because the farm is a more robust ecosystem that can tolerate disturbances by invasive or competing species.

Really the main one is that you can't grow quite as many crops at a time because sustainability generally means downsizing the crop just a bit so that the plants don't leach the nutrients out of the soil. So for mass agriculture, it can be difficult to manage sustainable farming practices. However, as these practices evolve, they will no doubt become more feasible for mass agriculture, and will likely actually become beneficial for ensuring better crop yield and pest control for large monoculture farms.

Source: Took AP Environmental Science