The Environmental Upside of Modern Farming

New methods rooted in low-impact, precision techniques require less land, less energy and fewer chemicals than traditional agriculture.


“Modern farming is better because it uses low-impact, “precision” techniques that require less land, less energy and fewer chemicals for every bushel produced. The secret has been to incorporate tools that use sensors, information and communications technology, big data, and even machine learning to reduce farming’s dependence on material resources.


Traditional farming had already failed as a protector of the environment nearly a century ago—and scientific advances have long offered new ways to help the planet. In the 1930s, after low-yield cropping was extended onto the drought-prone Southern Plains, the soil blew away, creating the disastrous Dust Bowl. Cropland expansion could finally be halted in the 1950s, once scientists had developed higher-yielding hybrid seeds. In the 1970s, engineering advances allowed farmers to plant seeds in unplowed fields, which reduced erosion, conserved soil moisture, sequestered carbon and saved on diesel fuel.”