Improving diet quality while simultaneously reducing environmental impact is a critical focus globally. Metrics linking diet quality and sustainability have typically focused on a limited suite of indicators, and have not included food waste. To address this important research gap, we examine the relationship between food waste, diet quality, nutrient waste, and multiple measures of sustainability: use of cropland, irrigation water, pesticides, and fertilizers. Data on food intake, food waste, and application rates of agricultural amendments were collected from diverse US government sources. Diet quality was assessed using the Healthy Eating Index-2015. A biophysical simulation model was used to estimate the amount of cropland associated with wasted food. This analysis finds that US consumers wasted 422g of food per person daily, with 30 million acres of cropland used to produce this food every year. This accounts for 30% of daily calories available for consumption, one-quarter of daily food (by weight) available for consumption, and 7% of annual cropland acreage. Higher quality diets were associated with greater amounts of food waste and greater amounts of wasted irrigation water and pesticides, but less cropland waste. This is largely due to fruits and vegetables, which are health-promoting and require small amounts of cropland, but require substantial amounts of agricultural inputs. These results suggest that simultaneous efforts to improve diet quality and reduce food waste are necessary. Increasing consumers' knowledge about how to prepare and store fruits and vegetables will be one of the practical solutions to reducing food waste.
Florida is riddled with sinkholes due to its karst topography. Sometimes these sinkholes can cause extensive damage to infrastructure and homes. It has been suggested that agricultural practices, such as sprinkler irrigation methods used to protect crops, can increase the development of sinkholes, particularly when temperatures drop below freezing, causing groundwater levels to drop quickly during groundwater pumping. In the strawberry growing region, Dover/Plant City, Florida, the effects have caused water shortages resulting in dry- wells and ground subsidence through the development of sinkholes that can be costly to maintain and repair. In this study, we look at how frost-freeze events have affected West Central Florida over the past 25 years with detailed comparisons made between two cold-years (with severe frost-freeze events) and a warm year (no frost-freeze events). We analyzed the spatial and temporal correlation between strawberry farming freeze protection practices and the development of sinkholes/dry well complaints, and assessed the economic impact of such events from a water management perspective by evaluating the cost of repairing and drilling new wells and how these compared with using alternative crop-protection methods. We found that the spatial distribution of sinkholes was non-random during both frost-freeze events. A strong correlation between sinkhole occurrence and water extraction and minimum temperatures was found. Furthermore as temperatures fall below 41°F and water levels decrease by more than 20 ft, the number of sinkholes increase greatly (N >10). At this time alternative protection methods such as freeze-cloth are cost prohibitive in comparison to repairing dry wells. In conclusion, the findings from this study are applicable in other agricultural areas and can be used to develop comprehensive water management plans in areas where the abstraction of large quantities of water occur.
A sharp decline in the availability of arable land and sufficient supply of irrigation water along with a continuous steep increase in food demands have exerted a pressure on farmers to produce more with fewer resources. A viable solution to release this pressure is to speed up the plant breeding process by employing biotechnology in breeding programs. The majority of biotechnological applications rely on information generated from various -omic technologies. The latest outstanding improvements in proteomic platforms and many other but related advances in plant biotechnology techniques offer various new ways to encourage the usage of these technologies by plant scientists for crop improvement programs. A combinatorial approach of accelerated gene discovery through genomics, proteomics, and other associated -omic branches of biotechnology, as an applied approach, is proving to be an effective way to speed up the crop improvement programs worldwide. In the near future, swift improvements in -omic databases are becoming critical and demand immediate attention for the effective utilization of these techniques to produce next-generation crops for the progressive farmers. Here, we have reviewed the recent advances in proteomics, as tools of biotechnology, which are offering great promise and leading the path toward crop improvement for sustainable agriculture.
In semiarid drylands water shortage and trampling by large herbivores are two factors limiting plant growth and distribution. Trampling can strongly affect plant performance, but little is known about responses of morphological and mechanical traits of woody plants to trampling and their possible interaction with water availability. Seedlings of four shrubs (Caragana intermedia, Cynanchum komarovi, Hedysarum laeve and Hippophae rhamnoides) common in the semiarid Mu Us Sandland were grown at 4% and 10% soil water content and exposed to either simulated trampling or not. Growth, morphological and mechanical traits were measured. Trampling decreased vertical height and increased basal diameter and stem resistance to bending and rupture (as indicated by the increased minimum bend and break force) in all species. Increasing water availability increased biomass, stem length, basal diameter, leaf thickness and rigidity of stems in all species except C. komarovii. However, there were no interactive effects of trampling and water content on any of these traits among species except for minimum bend force and the ratio between stem resistance to rupture and bending. Overall shrub species have a high degree of trampling resistance by morphological and mechanical modifications, and the effects of trampling do not depend on water availability. However, the increasing water availability can also affect trade-off between stem strength and flexibility caused by trampling, which differs among species. Water plays an important role not only in growth but also in trampling adaptation in drylands.
Chemical pesticides, regardless of their inherent hazard, are used intensively in the fast changing agricultural sector of Ethiopia. We conducted a cross-sectional pesticide Knowledge Attitude and Practice (KAP) survey among 601 farmers and farm workers (applicators and re-entry workers) in three farming systems [large-scale closed greenhouses (LSGH), large-scale open farms (LSOF), and small-scale irrigated farms (SSIF)]. Main observations were that 85% of workers did not attain any pesticide-related training, 81% were not aware of modern alternatives for chemical pesticides, 10% used a full set of personal protective equipment, and 62% did not usually bath or shower after work. Among applicators pesticide training attendance was highest in LSGH (35%) and was lowest in SSIF (4%). None of the female re-entry farm workers had received pesticide-related training. Personal protective equipment use was twice as high among pesticide applicators as among re-entry workers (13 versus 7%), while none of the small-scale farm workers used personal protection equipment. Stockpiling and burial of empty pesticide containers and discarding empty pesticide containers in farming fields were reported in both LSOF and by 75% of the farm workers in SSIF. Considerable increment in chemical pesticide usage intensity, illegitimate usages of DDT and Endosulfan on food crops and direct import of pesticides without the formal Ethiopian registration process were also indicated. These results point out a general lack of training and knowledge regarding the safe use of pesticides in all farming systems but especially among small-scale farmers. This in combination with the increase in chemical pesticide usage in the past decade likely results in occupational and environmental health risks. Improved KAP that account for institutional difference among various farming systems and enforcement of regulatory measures including the available occupational and environmental proclamations in Ethiopia are urgently needed.
Herbicide use is increasing worldwide both in agriculture and private gardens. However, our knowledge of potential side-effects on non-target soil organisms, even on such eminent ones as earthworms, is still very scarce. In a greenhouse experiment, we assessed the impact of the most widely used glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup on two earthworm species with different feeding strategies. We demonstrate, that the surface casting activity of vertically burrowing earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris) almost ceased three weeks after herbicide application, while the activity of soil dwelling earthworms (Aporrectodea caliginosa) was not affected. Reproduction of the soil dwellers was reduced by 56% within three months after herbicide application. Herbicide application led to increased soil concentrations of nitrate by 1592% and phosphate by 127%, pointing to potential risks for nutrient leaching into streams, lakes, or groundwater aquifers. These sizeable herbicide-induced impacts on agroecosystems are particularly worrisome because these herbicides have been globally used for decades.
Land, irrigation water, greenhouse gas, and reactive nitrogen burdens of meat, eggs, and dairy production in the United States
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published over 5 years ago
Livestock production impacts air and water quality, ocean health, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on regional to global scales and it is the largest use of land globally. Quantifying the environmental impacts of the various livestock categories, mostly arising from feed production, is thus a grand challenge of sustainability science. Here, we quantify land, irrigation water, and reactive nitrogen (Nr) impacts due to feed production, and recast published full life cycle GHG emission estimates, for each of the major animal-based categories in the US diet. Our calculations reveal that the environmental costs per consumed calorie of dairy, poultry, pork, and eggs are mutually comparable (to within a factor of 2), but strikingly lower than the impacts of beef. Beef production requires 28, 11, 5, and 6 times more land, irrigation water, GHG, and Nr, respectively, than the average of the other livestock categories. Preliminary analysis of three staple plant foods shows two- to sixfold lower land, GHG, and Nr requirements than those of the nonbeef animal-derived calories, whereas irrigation requirements are comparable. Our analysis is based on the best data currently available, but follow-up studies are necessary to improve parameter estimates and fill remaining knowledge gaps. Data imperfections notwithstanding, the key conclusion-that beef production demands about 1 order of magnitude more resources than alternative livestock categories-is robust under existing uncertainties. The study thus elucidates the multiple environmental benefits of potential, easy-to-implement dietary changes, and highlights the uniquely high resource demands of beef.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published about 4 years ago
The 2012-2015 drought has left California with severely reduced snowpack, soil moisture, ground water, and reservoir stocks, but the impact of this estimated millennial-scale event on forest health is unknown. We used airborne laser-guided spectroscopy and satellite-based models to assess losses in canopy water content of California’s forests between 2011 and 2015. Approximately 10.6 million ha of forest containing up to 888 million large trees experienced measurable loss in canopy water content during this drought period. Severe canopy water losses of greater than 30% occurred over 1 million ha, affecting up to 58 million large trees. Our measurements exclude forests affected by fire between 2011 and 2015. If drought conditions continue or reoccur, even with temporary reprieves such as El Niño, we predict substantial future forest change.
Tapping unsustainable groundwater stores for agricultural production in the High Plains Aquifer of Kansas, projections to 2110
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published over 6 years ago
Groundwater provides a reliable tap to sustain agricultural production, yet persistent aquifer depletion threatens future sustainability. The High Plains Aquifer supplies 30% of the nation’s irrigated groundwater, and the Kansas portion supports the congressional district with the highest market value for agriculture in the nation. We project groundwater declines to assess when the study area might run out of water, and comprehensively forecast the impacts of reduced pumping on corn and cattle production. So far, 30% of the groundwater has been pumped and another 39% will be depleted over the next 50 y given existing trends. Recharge supplies 15% of current pumping and would take an average of 500-1,300 y to completely refill a depleted aquifer. Significant declines in the region’s pumping rates will occur over the next 15-20 y given current trends, yet irrigated agricultural production might increase through 2040 because of projected increases in water use efficiencies in corn production. Water use reductions of 20% today would cut agricultural production to the levels of 15-20 y ago, the time of peak agricultural production would extend to the 2070s, and production beyond 2070 would significantly exceed that projected without reduced pumping. Scenarios evaluate incremental reductions of current pumping by 20-80%, the latter rate approaching natural recharge. Findings substantiate that saving more water today would result in increased net production due to projected future increases in crop water use efficiencies. Society has an opportunity now to make changes with tremendous implications for future sustainability and livability.
Public awareness of water- and drought-related issues is an important yet relatively unexplored component of water use behavior. To examine this relationship, we first quantified news media coverage of drought in California from 2005 to 2015, a period with two distinct droughts; the later drought received unprecedentedly high media coverage, whereas the earlier drought did not, as the United States was experiencing an economic downturn coinciding with a historic presidential election. Comparing this coverage to Google search frequency confirmed that public attention followed news media trends. We then modeled single-family residential water consumption in 20 service areas in the San Francisco Bay Area during the same period using geospatially explicit data and including news media coverage as a covariate. Model outputs revealed the factors affecting water use for populations of varying demographics. Importantly, the models estimated that an increase of 100 drought-related articles in a bimonthly period was associated with an 11 to 18% reduction in water use. Then, we evaluated high-resolution water consumption data from smart meters, known as advanced metering infrastructure, in one of the previously modeled service areas to evaluate breakpoints in water use trends. Results demonstrated that whereas nonresidential commercial irrigation customers responded to changes in climate, single-family residential customers decreased water use at the fastest rate following heavy drought-related news media coverage. These results highlight the need for water resource planners and decision makers to further consider the importance of effective, internally and externally driven, public awareness and education in water demand behavior and management.