Abstract

Agriculture, being the primary sector of human activities, has the technical role of providing food for a continuously growing world population. The pursuit of this onerous mission bestows agriculture with specific ethical duties, as on one hand it must guarantee humanity’s survival,on the other hand it must safeguard the environment for future genergenerations. In other words, rendering food available for humanity does not have a single quantitative dimension, but three: agricultural production must ensure the provision of sufficient, safe and sustainable food (Bertoni, 2015). The production of field crops, including forage crops, has a primary role in succeeding in the abovementioned mission, both in developed and developing countries. In recent decades, the emergence of severely critical agronomic, environmental, economic and social situations has brought to light an ever-stronger realization that all the agrosystems must undergo a profound structural revision. Among the management systems that are alternatives to conventional agriculture, Sustainable Agriculture represents the most advanced system, being able to be defined as a system that protects water and agricultural soil by integrating agronomic, environmental and economic aspects. SA conserves and improves agricultural yields while also significantly reducing the extent of physical, chemical and biological degradation of the land, as well as alleviating erosion, reintegrating the losses caused by mineralization of organic carbon, limiting the emission of greenhouse gases from the agricultural sector (with consequential mitigating effects on global warming) and promoting a better use of water. In developed countries, SA studies and applies modern techniques for soil management, irrigation, and weed and pest control, with the specific target of preserving high production levels and conserving the environment. In developing countries, on the other hand, traditional agriculture (often characterized as being subsistence agriculture) is revised, and innovative techniques are inserted. These innovative techniques have to be compatible with the environmental sustainability, but also, and above all, with the acceptance by the rural people and the social- economic system. In both developed and developing countries the starting point of any revision in the agricultural practices must be the care of the soil, that beyond its apparent solidity and immobility is an extremely fragile agricultural resource, and it is essentially non-renewable. The pedological organic matter has a fundamental role in ensuring the agronomic fertility of the soil, and thus its aptitude to produce. For this reason, in the revision – or revolution – of the agroecosystems, here proposed, the role of the organic matter (which is brown coloured, hence the term ‘Brown Revolution’) in conserving and promoting the fertility of the agricultural soils is greatly emphasized as a fertile soil in turn promotes a prosperous agricultural and zootechnical production. The availability of fertile soils will therefore be fundamental if agriculture is to succeed in providing food for a growing world population while also tackling land-use conflicts, for urban use or for the production of bioenergy and biofuels. It seems that it is time for agriculture to be seen once again as a strategic primary sector and for environmental protection to stop being seen as a pointless and hateful obstruction to progress; it should instead be seen as a framework within which to revise the agrosystems so as to drive agriculture towards sustainable intensification.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteWorld Food Production. Facing Growing Needs and Limited Resources
Pagine347-373
Numero di pagine27
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2015

Keywords

  • conservation agriculture
  • developing countries
  • field crop production
  • soil
  • soil fertility
  • soil quality

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