Agricultural technology plays an essential role in establishing sustainable and viable food systems globally. The Green revolution (GR) is an example of how such scale-immune technology transformed agricultural production. However, there were also some drawbacks of GR techniques which were highlighted during the launch of this technology by leading agricultural scientists in the early 1990s.
There is always a finite amount of agricultural land available for the cultivation and production of food. The problem with hydropower, surface water, and other sources of renewable energy is that they are not always available on a large scale. This means that agricultural technology must concentrate efforts on yield production on a very large area in order to meet food demands.
In developing countries, especially in Asia and Latin America, agricultural technology has not been able to meet food requirements on a large scale because of limited access to capital, infrastructure, and resources. One of the most fundamental limitations in integrating advanced agricultural technology in the agricultural sector in developing countries is the lack of financial and technical capital. Agriculture is highly profitable but very capital-intensive. In developing countries, agricultural productivity gains come at the cost of soil erosion, soil compaction, and water abstraction. In addition to these major limitations, there is also a limit in the scope of fertilizers.
What are the drawbacks of agriculture? One of the biggest disadvantages is that production is dependent on a finite source such as the cropland. Cropland expansion is highly expensive. Also, cropland area is shrinking at a very fast rate in many areas due to a combination of environmental factors and the pressures of urbanization and population growth. As a result, cropland productivity is decreasing and becoming increasingly vulnerable to shocks such as floods, drought, and fires. With approximately 45 percent of global cropland currently in use, and with no signs of cropland contraction, agricultural technology is an integral force in delivering sustainable development and addressing poverty and other socio-economic issues in agricultural regions.
How does agricultural technology help improve food supplies per capita? Technological advancements in the agricultural sector have made it possible to grow food on a large scale without depleting natural resources. Between the 1950s and the early 1990s, world grain production increased by about thirty percent per acre, which helped reduce food prices and encourage agricultural development. Since then, per acre productivity levels have declined, primarily due to soil erosion and other factors. By using advanced agricultural techniques, farmers are now growing foods on a much larger scale than they were in the past, and this has helped reduce the gap between poor and rich countries, particularly in the Third World.
How has agricultural technology helped reduce food miles? Livestock production requires travel, and this increases the distance traveled by crops. Between 2021, the agricultural land surface area increased by more than fourteen million acres, largely as a result of genetically enhanced wheat, rice, and cotton that are able to tolerate extreme weather conditions and can be grown in extreme conditions. These crops can be grown virtually anywhere. Furthermore, improved pest management techniques, better fertilization, and re-fertilization methods, and integrated pest management have helped reduce the risk of disease and pests. In addition, the planting of crop residues, including fertilized or alfalfa residues, on agricultural land has helped reduce the need for additional agricultural pest control chemicals.
What are the implications for the environment and our food supply? Recent studies indicate that advanced agricultural techniques can have a significant impact on both biodiversity and quality of life, especially in relation to climate change and global warming. Improved site-specific irrigation, site-specific crop rotation, and integrated crop protection technologies are enabling farmers to protect their most valuable asset – our soil – while still achieving substantial yields and providing food supplies for human and animal consumption. These practices also contribute to reducing the number of greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere.
The combined effects of intensive land-use practices and chemical insecticides and herbicides have resulted in soil erosion at an alarming rate, with the added damage being done to the environment. It is estimated that more than 150 billion pounds of crops are lost annually from soil erosion, with a further loss of one million tons due to crop production. In response to the problem, more farmers are installing soil erosion control systems. Improved site-specific water management systems are also being put to use, with a major emphasis on reclamation. In summary, agricultural technology in the form of genetically modified crops, site-specific weed control systems, and pesticides have contributed to the reduction of agricultural pests and diseases, increased productivity, and the preservation of soil and water quality. However, as is always the case in nature, farmers must continue to monitor the progress of these systems, in order to protect not only their own interests but also the future of biodiversity.