Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century

Published in 2010, Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century “assesses the scientific evidence for the strengths and weaknesses of different production, marketing, and policy approaches for improving and reducing the costs and unintended consequences of agricultural production.” It discusses improving sustainability across a variety of regional and international settings. The authors hope it will serve as a valuable resource for farmers, policy makers, experts in food production and agribusiness, and federal regulatory agencies.

The text includes a number of case studies of different kinds of farms and farming systems with a goal of sustainability. Several farms, featured in an earlier work, were also revisited.

The National Academies Press has made this text available for free online viewing or as a free downloadable PDF. A printed version is also available on their site or on Amazon for sale – Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century.

Table of Contents for Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century

(The original text relied solely upon indentation to identify subheadings, the addition of numbers is my contribution and an errors are mine. Please note that the actual table of contents contains sub-sub-sub-sub chapters and I opted to not include them here.)

Executive Summary
1. Understanding Agricultural Sustainability
1.1 Purpose of this Report
1.2 Farming and Agriculture

1.2.1 General Definitions
1.2.2 Farming Practices and Systems
1.3 Agricultural Sustainability

1.3.1 Defining Sustainability Goals
1.4 Setting Priorities for Agricultural Sustainability

1.4.1 Who Decides?
1.4.2 The Role of Science in Facilitating Sustainability
1.5 Indicators of Sustainability

1.5.1 Characteristics and Types of Indicators
1.5.2 Relating Indicators to Sustainability Goals and System Attributes
1.5.3 Interpreting Indicators
1.5.4 Integrating Diverse Indicators in Holistic Assessments
1.6 Summary
1.7 Organization of the Report
1.8 References
2. A Pivotal Time in Agriculture
2.1 A Brief History of U.S. Agriculture
2.2 U.S. Agriculture Today
2.3 Challenges to U.S. Agriculture in the 21st Century

2.3.1 Increasing Demand on U.S. Agriculture
2.3.2 Natural Resource Scarcity
2.3.3 Environmental Degradation
2.3.4 Social Concerns
2.4 Systems Approach to Improving the Sustainability of Agriculture
2.5 Summary
2.6 References
3. Improving Productivity and Environmental Sustainability in U.S. Farming Systmes
3.1 Soil Management

3.1.1 Conservation Tillage
3.1.2 Cover Cropping

3.2 Crop and Vegetation Diversity Management

3.2.1 Crop Rotations
3.2.2 Intercropping
3.2.3 Cultivar Mixtures
3.2.4 Management of Noncrop Vegetation
3.2.5 Plant Breeding and Genetic Modication of Crops
3.2.6 Molecular Markers and Genetic Engineering in Cultivar Development
3.3 Water-Use Management

3.3.1 Irregation Scheduling
3.3.2 Gravity Systems
3.3.3 Sprinkler Irrigation
3.3.4 Trickle or Drip Irrigation
3.3.5 Regulated Deficit Irrigation
3.3.6 Water Reuse
3.3.7 Small Dams
3.4 Water Quality Management

3.4.1 Drainage Water Management Systems
3.4.2 Wetlands
3.4.3 Buffers
3.5 Nutrient Management

3.5.1 Mass Balances for Nutrient Management
3.5.2 Soil and Tissue Sufficiency Tests
3.5.3 Nutrient Management Plans and Best Management Practices
3.5.4 Nutrient Inputs
3.5.5 Legumes
3.5.6 Animal Manure
3.5.7 Dietary Modification to Adjust Manure Composition
3.5.8 Compost
3.5.9 Precision Agriculture
3.5.10 Anaerobic Digestion with Biogas Recovery of Animal Manure
3.6 Weeds, Pests, and Disease Management in Crops

3.6.1 Managing the Crop-Weed-Disease-Pest Complex
3.6.2 Evaluation of Adoption, Effectiveness and Future Challenges of IPM and Ecological Pest Managment
3.6.3 Future Role of Pesticides in IPM
3.7 Managing Efficiency of Animal Production Systems

3.7.1 Animal Breeding
3.7.2 Animal Nutrition
3.8 Animal Welfare

3.8.1 Housing
3.8.2 Qualitative Diet Restriction
3.8.3 Environmental Enrichment
3.8.4 Research Needs
3.9 Animal Health

3.9.1 Alternatices to Subtherapeutic Antibiotics
3.9.1 Animal Identification
3.10 Summary

3.10.1 Soil Management
3.10.2 Crop and Vegetation Diversity Management
3.10.3 Water Use and Quality Management
3.10.4 Nutrient Management
3.10.5 Weed, Pest, and Disease Management in Crops
3.10.6 Animal Housing, Nutrition, Health and Breeding
3.11 References
4. Economic and Social Dimensions of the Sustainability of Framing Practices and Approaches
4.1 Economic Security of Sustainable Farming Systems

4.1.1 Economic Security at the Farm Level
4.2 Socioeconomic Aspects of Sustainability at the Community Level

4.2.1 Farm Labor Conditions and Security
4.2.2 Community Economic Security
4.2.3 Community Well-Being
4.3 Food Security, Safety, Quality and Other Socioeconomic Dimensions

4.3.1 Satisfying Human Food, Feed and Fiber Needs
4.3.2 Sustainable Agriculture and Food Access
4.3.3 Food Safety
4.3.4 Food Quality and Nutritional Completeness
4.3.5 Next Generation of Farmers
4.4 Summary
4.5 References
5. Examples of Farming System Types for Improving Sustainability
5.1 Organic Cropping Systems

5.1.1 Principles and Practices of Organic Farming
5.1.1 Impact on Productivity and Environmental Sustainability
5.1.2 Economic Impact
5.1.3 Social Impact
5.2 Alternative Livestock Production Systems

5.2.1 Integrated Crop-Livestock Systems
5.2.2 Management-Intensive Rotational Grazing Systems
5.2.3 Low-Confinement Integrated Hog-Producing Systems
5.3 Perennial Agriculture Systems

5.3.1 Perennial Grain System
5.3.2 Perennial Grasses for Biofuels
5.4 Gaps in Existing Science at the Systems Level

5.4.1 Design Within Systems Types
5.4.2 Holistic Comparisons Between Farming Systems Types
5.5 Biogeophysical Landscape-Level Sustainability Analysis and Planning
5.6 Summary
5.7 References
6. Drivers and Constraints Affecting the Transition to Sustainable Farming Practices
6.1 Agricultural Markets as Contextual Factors

6.1.1 Concentration in the Agrifood System
6.1.2 Emerging Markets
6.1.3 Grades, Standards and Certification Labels
6.1.4 Emerging Markets for Ecosystem Services
6.2 Public Policy as a Contextual Factor

6.2.1 The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008
6.2.2 Energy Policy
6.2.3 Environmental Regulation
6.2.4 Water Use Policies
6.2.5 Animal Welfare Regulations
6.3 Knowledge Institutions as Contextual Factors

6.3.1 Publicly Funded Agricultiral Research and Extension
6.3.2 Private Sector Agricultural Research
6.3.3 Division of Labor Between Public and Private Agricultural Research
6.3.4 Expanding Beyond Productivity Research
6.3.5 Structuring Systems Research for Improving Agricultural Sustainability
6.4 Stakeholders and Social Movements

6.4.1 A Brief History of Agricultural Stakeholders and Social Movements
6.5 Diversity of Farmer Responses to Contexts

6.5.1 Local Conditions and Farm Sustainability
6.5.2 Farm and Farmer Characteristics and the Use of Sustainable Agricultural Practices
6.5.3 Farmer Knowledge, Skills and Perceptions
6.5.4 Farmer Values, Goals, and Perceptions
6.6 Summary

6.6.1 Markets
6.6.2 Public Policies
6.6.3 Knowledge Institutions
6.6.4 Stakeholders and Social Movements
6.6.4 Diversity of Farmer Responses
6.7 References
7. Illustrative Case Studies
7.1 Follow-Up of the Case Studies Featured in Alternative Agriculture

7.1.1 Status of the Farms
7.1.2 Commonalities Among the Farms
7.2 Mormon Trail Farm

7.2.1 Farming Philosophy
7.2.2 Management Features
7.2.3 Learning Networks
7.2.4 Use of Government Programs
7.2.5 Trial of Organic Production
7.2.6 Benefits from the Biofuel Industry
7.2.7 Summary and Future Outlook
7.3 Ferrari Farms, Inc.

7.3.1 Farming Philosophy
7.3.2 Management Features
7.3.3 Learning Networks
7.3.4 Performance Indicators
7.3.5 Key Changes
7.3.6 Challenges
7.3.7 Summary and Future Outlook
7.4 Brookview Farm

7.4.1 Farming Philosophy
7.4.2 Management Features
7.4.3 Learning Networks
7.4.4 Performance Indicators
7.4.5 Key Changes
7.4.6 Challenges
7.4.7 Summary and Future Outlook
7.5 Lundberg Family Farm

7.5.1 Farming Philosophy
7.5.2 Management Features
7.5.3 Learning Networks
7.5.4 Performance Indicators
7.5.5 Key Changes
7.5.6 Challenges
7.5.7 Summary and Future Outlook
7.6 Pavich Family Farms

7.6.1 Farming Philosophy
7.6.2 Learning Networks
7.6.3 Key Changes
7.6.4 Challenges
7.6.5 Summary and Future Outlook
7.7 Thompson Farm

7.7.1 Farming Philosophy
7.7.2 Management Features
7.7.3 Learning Networks
7.7.4 Performance Indicators
7.7.5 Key Changes
7.7.6 Challenges
7.3.7 Summary and Future Outlook
7.8 Green Cay Farm and Green Cay Produce

7.8.1 Farming Philosophy
7.8.2 Management Features
7.8.3 Learning Networks
7.8.4 Key Changes
7.8.5 Challenges
7.8.6 Summary and Future Outlook
7.9 New Case Studies

7.9.1 Production Challenges
7.9.2 Socioeconomic Issues
7.9.3 Information Sources and Knowledge of Production
7.9.4 Government Programs and Policies
7.9.5 Lessons LEarned
7.10 Bragger Farm

7.10.1 Background and History
7.10.2 Farm Production System
7.10.3 Natural Resources, Energy and Climate Change
7.10.4 Marketing, Business Management and Financials
7.10.5 Risks, Challenges and Changes
7.10.6 Sustainability
7.10.7 Observations and Conclusions
7.11 Radiance Dairy

7.11.1 Background and History of the Farm
7.11.2 Farm Production System
7.11.3 Natural Resources, Energy and Climate Change
7.11.4 Marketing, Business Management and Financials
7.11.5 Social and Community Considerations
7.11.6 Risks, Challenges and Changes
7.11.7 Observations and Conclusions
7.12 Straus Family Creamery

7.12.1 Background and History
7.12.2 Farm Production System
7.12.3 Natural Resources, Energy and Climate Change
7.12.4 Distribution and Markets
7.12.5 Social and Community Considerations
7.12.6 Sustainability
7.12.7 Risks, Challenges and Changes
7.13 Full Belly Farm

7.13.1 Background and History
7.13.2 Farm Production System
7.13.3 Natural Resources, Energy and Climate Change
7.13.4 Marketing, Business Managment and Financials
7.13.5 Social and Community Considerations
7.13.6 Risks and Challenges
7.13.7 Observations and Conclusions
7.14 Peregrine Farm

7.14.1 Background and History
7.14.2 Farm Production System
7.14.3 Marketing, Business Management and Financials
7.14.4 Social and Community Considerations
7.14.5 Natural Resource Issues, Energy and Climate Change
7.14.6 Risks, Challenges and Changes
7.14.7 Sustainability
7.14.8 Obsercations and Conclusions
7.15 Stahbush Island Farms

7.15.1 Background and History
7.15.2 Farm Production System
7.15.3 Natural Resource, Energy and Climate Change
7.15.4 Marketing, Business Management and Financials
7.15.5 Social and Community Considerations
7.15.6 Sustainability
7.15.7 Research and Policy Concerns
7.15.8 Observations and Conclusions
7.16 Goldmine Farm

7.16.1 Background and History
7.16.2 Farm Production System
7.16.3 Natural Resources, Energy and Climate Change
7.16.4 Marketing, Business Management and Financials
7.16.5 Social and Community Considerations
7.16.6 Research and Policy Concerns
7.16.7 Sustainability
7.16.8 Observations and Conclusions
7.17 Rosmann Family Farm

7.17.1 Background and History
7.17.2 Farm Production System
7.17.3 Natural Resources, Energy and Climate Change
7.17.4 Marketing, Business Management and Financials
7.17.5 Social and Community Considerations
7.17.6 Risks, Challenges and Changes
7.16.7 Observations and Conclusions
7.18 Zenner Farm

7.18.1 Background and History
7.18.2 Farm Production System
7.18.3 Natural Resources and Wildlife Concerns
7.18.4 Marketing, Business Management and Financials
7.18.5 Social Community Considerations
7.18.6 Risks, Challenges and Changes
7.18.7 Government Programs and Policy Involvement
7.18.8 Observations and Conclusions
8. Sustainable Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa: “Lessons Learned” from the United States
8.1 The Importance of Context

8.1.1 Evolving Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa
8.1.2 Lessons Learned from the Green Revolution
8.1.3 A Second Green Revolution
8.2 Long-Term Evolution Towards Sustainability in Sub-Saharan Africa
8.3 Considerations of U.S. “Lessons” Learned

8.3.1 Transferability of Agricultural Practices for Improving Sustainability
8.4 Summary
8.5 References
9. Conclusions and Recommendations
9.1 What is Sustainable Agriculture

9.1.2 Defining Sustainable Agriculture
9.1.3 Measuring Progress Toward Sustainability
9.2 Toward Agricultural Sustainability in the 21st Century
9.3 Incremental Approach to Improving U.S. Agricultural Sustainability
9.4 Transformative Approach to Improving U.S. Agricultural Sustainability

9.4.1 A Systems Approach to Agricultural Research
9.4.2 Key Drivers of Change: Markets and Federal and Local Policies
9.5 Relevance of Lessons Learned to Sub-Saharan Africa
9.6 In Closing
A. Statement of Task
B. Biographical Sketches
C. Presentations to the Committee on 21st Century Systems Agriculture
D. Follow-up of the 1989 Case Studies Featured in Alternative Agriculture Report: Topics of Disucssion During Telephone Interview
E. Dairy Farms: Topics of Discussion During On-Farm Interview
F. Grain Farms: Topics of Discussion During On-Farm Interview
G. Specialty-Crop Farms: Topics of Discussion During On-Farm Interview

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