Digital Agriculture Paves the Road to Sustainability

In a study published in Nature Sustainability, an ecosystem scientist and an agricultural economist outline how to develop a more sustainable land management system through data collection and stakeholder buy-in. 

Bruno Basso, professor in the College of Natural Science at Michigan State University, and John Antle, professor of Applied Economics at Oregon State University, believe the path begins with digital agriculture or, the integration of big data into crop and farmland usage. 

Digital agriculture, Basso says, is where agriculture, science, policy, and education intersect. Putting that data to use requires an effec- tive balancing of competing economic and social interests while minimizing trade-offs. 

Technologies like genetic modification and crop pro- duction automation help produce more food than we need to survive. And while the modern food system is a monument to human ingenuity and innovation, it is not without problems. 

“Agriculture’s contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, and biodiversity loss show that major agricultural systems are on a largely unsustainable trajectory,”

Basso says. “And as the population increases, energy demands and pollution will scale accordingly.” Basso says that while policymakers, farmers and environmental groups are all speaking, they are not necessarily listening.