Public Release:  More recycling on the farm could reduce environmental problems

Semiclosed agriculture judged to sustain biological resources

American Institute of Biological Sciences

Growing environmental problems resulting from farming argue for a shift toward practices that use lower inputs of pesticides and energy and more recycling of energy and materials, according to an article published in the May 2007 issue of BioScience. The author, Craig J. Pearson of the University of Guelph, documents how semiclosed agricultural systems -- which he terms "regenerative" -- could enhance global sustainability of biological resources, curtail greenhouse gas emissions and groundwater contamination, and reduce farming's reliance on oil imports and water.

A switch to regenerative agriculture would involve a variety of changes, including reduced use of inorganic fertilizers and more on-farm energy generation from wind and fermentation of biosolids. It would also reduce overcropping and leakage from manure storage that contaminates groundwater. Yet despite similarities, Pearson's concept of regenerative agriculture is distinct from organic farming; for example, regenerative agriculture could use some chemically treated fertilizer and would exploit robotic systems.

The approach would entail more use of human labor, which is costly, and may reduce output per unit area farmed. Pearson summarizes studies of organic farming suggesting, however, that price premiums could overcome this disadvantage, and points out that social benefits could be expected. Pearson argues that existing funding programs for farmers could be modified to encourage more regenerative agriculture, and suggests that philanthropists and professional bodies could stimulate its uptake.

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BioScience, which is published by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), publishes commentary and peer-reviewed articles covering a wide range of biological fields, with a focus on "organisms from molecules to the environment." The journal has been published since 1964. AIBS is an umbrella organization for professional scientific societies and organizations that are involved with biology. It represents some 200 member societies and organizations with a combined membership of about 250,000.

The complete list of research articles in the May 2007 issue of BioScience is as follows:

The Paddlefish Rostrum as an Electrosensory Organ: A Novel Adaptation for Plankton Feeding. Lon A. Wilkens and Michael H. Hofmann

Regenerative, Semiclosed Systems: A Priority for Twenty-First-Century Agriculture. Craig J. Pearson

What's in Noah's Wallet? Land Conservation Spending in the United States. Jeff Lerner, Janet Mackey, and Frank Casey

Noah at the Ballot Box: Status and Challenges. Peter S. Szabo

Species Invasions from Commerce in Live Aquatic Organisms: Problems and Possible Solutions. Reuben P. Keller and David M. Lodge

Amphibian Population Declines: Evolutionary Considerations. Andrew R. Blaustein and Betsy A. Bancroft

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