• A personal note on IGBP and the social sciences

    Humans are an integral component of the Earth system as conceptualised by IGBP. João Morais recalls key milestones in IGBP’s engagement with the social sciences and offers some words of advice for Future Earth.
  • IGBP and Earth observation:
    a co-evolution

    The iconic images of Earth beamed back by the earliest spacecraft helped to galvanise interest in our planet’s environment. The subsequent evolution and development of satellites for Earth observation has been intricately linked with that of IGBP and other global-change research programmes, write Jack Kaye and Cat Downy .

Environmental Consequences of Alternative Practices for Intensifying Crop Production

Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment (2002)
Gregory P J, Ingram J S I, Andersson R, Betts R A, Brovkin V, Chase T N, Grace P R, Gray A J, Hamilton N, Hardy T B, Howden S M, Jenkins A, Meybeck M, Olsson M, Ortiz-Monasterio I O, Palm C, Payne T, Rummukainene M, Sculze R E, Thiem M, Valentin C and Wilkinson M J (eds)
Doi: 10.1016/S0167-8809(01)00263-8
Vol 88; Issue 3; pp. 279-290

The increasing global demand for food will be met chiefly by increased intensification of production. For crops, this will be achieved largely by increased yields per area with a smaller contribution from an increased number of crops grown in a seasonal cycle. Production systems show a spectrum of intensification practices characterised by varying methods of site preparation and pest control, and inputs of germplasm, nutrients and water. This paper highlights three main types of intensification (based largely on the quantity and efficiency of use of external inputs) and examines both the on- and off-site environmental consequences of each for soils, water quantity and quality, and climate forcing and regional climate change. The use of low amounts of external inputs is generally regarded as being the most environmentally-benign although this advantage over systems with higher inputs may disappear if the consequences are expressed per unit of product rather than per unit area. The adverse effects of production systems with high external inputs, especially losses of nutrients from fertilisers and manures to water courses and contributions of gases to climate forcing, have been quantified. Future intensification, including the use of improved germplasm via genetic modification, will seek to increase the efficiency of use of added inputs while minimising adverse effects on the environment. However, reducing the loss of nutrients from fertilisers and manures, and increasing the efficiency of water utilisation in crop production, remain considerable challenges.

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