WSU Organics Pioneer Says Blend of Ag Systems Will Feed the World

PULLMAN, Wash. – No single agricultural system will be enough to feed the planet, according to Washington State University organics pioneer John Reganold in an article published in Nature magazine today. Rather, he says, it will take a blend of systems.

John Reganold. Click on image for high-resolution version.

Reganold, Regents professor of soils and agroecology, was one of two authors invited by Nature to respond to an article about a meta-analysis of agricultural systems that shows organic yields are mostly lower than those from conventional farming, but do perform well in some situations.

John Reganold, Regents professor of soils and agroecology. Click on image for high-resolution version.

“If we want to feed a growing world population, producing adequate crop yields is vital,” Reganold wrote. He noted, however, that according to a 2010 report by the U.S. National Research Council, growing enough food is only one of four main criteria for making agriculture “sustainable.” The other three are:

  • Enhancing the natural resource base and environment
  • Making farming financially viable
  • Contributing to the well-being of farmers and their communities.

“The NRC report identifies organic methods as one of several innovative systems that better integrate production, environmental and socio-economic objectives,” Reganold said. Other systems include agroforestry, hybrid organic-conventional agriculture, conservation agriculture, grass-fed livestock production and mixed crop-livestock systems.

“No one of these systems alone will produce enough food to feed the plant,” he wrote. “Rather a blend of farming approaches is needed for future global food and ecosystem security.”