The latest agrarian revolution, which began in the 1940s and 1950s, managed to guarantee food security for much of the global population and sufficient income for farmers by releasing them from the hard work of the fields and stables.
The availability of low-cost energy (petroleum derivative) and new and effective fertilizers and pesticides have led to surprising increases in the productivity of crops and livestock.
Long-term intensive application of new technologies has often led to the degradation of terrestrial and water ecosystems on which agricultural production depends
The negative impacts of agriculture on the environment
Over the past 50 years, the uncontrolled exercise of several agricultural practices has led to:
- pollution of surface (rivers, lakes) and deep (aquifers) waters due to the use of phytochemicals (especially herbicides) and fertilizers (nitrogen and phosphorus)
- loss of biodiversity in rural areas
- reduction in soil fertility
- increase in water erosion of soils
- increase in emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (carbon dioxide – methane – nitrous oxide)
CiRAA’s research on the relationship between agriculture and the environment
The aim of agricultural research is to develop new farming systems that reduce environmental impacts, without compromising the productivity of crops and livestock or economic affordability.
Since the early 1990s, CiRAA has been studying the long-term effects of agronomic techniques and crop systems on the environment and the productivity-quality of crops.
In terms of tillage, the Center’s research has shown that soil erosion and the loss of fertility can be reduced by using simplified techniques such as minimum tillage and no-tillage.
In terms of fertilization, slow-release fertilizers help control nitrate water pollution, as do green manure crops.
The mechanical and physical techniques used for containing weeds have effectively integrated weed control, thus reducing the environmental impact of herbicides