Toward a more resilient agriculture

E. Bennett, S.R Carpenter, L. Gordon, N Ramankutty, P. Balvanera, B. Campbell, W. Cramer, J Foley, C. Folke, L Karlberg, J. Liu, H. Lotze-Campen, N. Mueller, G Peterson, S. Polasky, J. Rockström, R. Scholes, M.J. Spierenburg

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Agriculture is a key driver of
change in the Anthropocene. It is both a
critical factor for human well-being and
development and a major driver of
environmental decline. As the human
population expands to more than 9 billion by
2050, we will be compelled to find ways to
adequately feed this population while
simultaneously decreasing the environmental
impact of agriculture, even as global change
is creating new circumstances to which
agriculture must respond. Many proposals to
accomplish this dual goal of increasing
agricultural production while reducing its
environmental impact are based on increasing
the efficiency of agricultural production
relative to resource use and relative to
unintended outcomes such as water pollution,
biodiversity loss, and greenhouse gas
emissions. While increasing production
efficiency is almost certainly necessary, it is
unlikely to be sufficient and may in some
instances reduce long-term agricultural
resilience, for example, by degrading soil and
increasing the fragility of agriculture to pest
and disease outbreaks and climate shocks. To
encourage an agriculture that is both resilient
and sustainable, radically new approaches to
agricultural development are needed. These
approaches must build on a diversity of
solutions operating at nested scales, and they
must maintain and enhance the adaptive and
transformative capacity needed to respond to
disturbances and avoid critical thresholds.
Finding such approaches will require that we
encourage experimentation, innovation, and
learning, even if they sometimes reduce
short-term production efficiency in some parts
of the world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-75
Number of pages11
JournalSolutions: For a Sustainable and Desirable Future
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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