Rotating crops, conserving soil nutrients and deploying other strategies to “diversify” agriculture all at the same time can yield major benefits for the environment and people alike—including increased crop yields and improved food security for entire communities.

That’s the take-home message of a landmark new study, including researchers from more than 15 nations and data from 2,655 farms on five continents. The team published its findings April 4 in the journal Science. “This is evidence that this can actually work—we can imagine agricultural systems that are more diverse and serve people and nature at the same time,” said Zia Mehrabi, a co-author of the new study and assistant professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The study comes as farms across much of the world are increasingly growing just one type of crop or raising a single kind of animal—a transition to “monoculture” agriculture that may bring with it a wide range of risks, including the loss of soil nutrients and spreading pest outbreaks. In the United States, the number of farms in the country in 2022 dwindled to its lowest level since before the start of the Civil War, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Those remaining farms have only gotten bigger and simpler.

The research carries a stark message, said Laura Vang Rasmussen of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark who, along with Ingo Grass of the University of Hohenheim in Germany, served as lead author of the paper. “Drop monoculture and industrial thinking and diversify the way you farm—it pays off,” Rasmussen said.

Source: EurekAlert

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