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4 Science and Technology for Sustainable Agriculture
Pages 23-28

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From page 23...
... People will need to eat more fruits and vegetables while reducing the large amounts of food that are wasted today. As the 2019 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030 pointed out, creating a sustainable global food system will require the development and application of many new technologies and the continued pursuit of new scientific knowledge.1 This chapter describes some of the many beneficial agricultural technologies that already exist and are on the horizon.
From page 24...
... Technol ogies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, process engineering, and synthetic biology could come together to shift the paradigm from "food produced by agriculture" to "food produced by manu facturing." High-tech, three-dimensional vertical farms could efficiently produce clean and organic food within urban centers. Foods requiring less energy to produce could be grown near the point of consumption to reduce transportation costs, with energy-dense commodities produced near energy sources such as hydroelectric and solar power.
From page 25...
... This research has already led to inexpensive methods of increasing the supplies of silicate in soils to mitigate salt stress and improve yields, such as through the application of silicate-rich steel furnace slag.8 Success in applying such methods will require not only technological advances but also integrating crop breeding and genetic approaches with agronomical practices and practical advice for farmers. New tools that deliver DNA, RNA, or proteins into plant cells could enhance the use of genetic technologies in producing new food, bioenergy, or medicinal applications.
From page 26...
... As a specific example, researchers are working on lowering the energetic cost of photorespiration, with the installation of a synthetic photorespiratory pathway improving yields by up to 25 percent.12 Tests of this concept have shown potential, and many other opportunities exist to engineer more efficient photosynthesis. Many crops produced using genetic technologies have already been approved and are in widespread use.
From page 27...
... Alongside its role in food production, soil can sequester large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, depending on the management practices applied to agriculture and to soils.a One way to improve soil health and carbon sequestration would be to take advantage of the rapidly growing understanding of the beneficial interactions between the soil microbiome and crop efficiency.b Fungi, for example, take up phosphorus and make it usable to plants, while nitrogen-fixing bacteria process atmospheric nitrogen into forms of nitrogen that plants can use. If all crops could be provided with microorganisms that perform these functions, the need for fertilizers could be substantially reduced.
From page 28...
... Some policy levers are undoubtedly powerful, such as price changes created by a carbon tax, but whether they are enough to achieve the needed changes is unknown. For example, a carbon tax might do little to address biodiversity or the production of unhealthy foods, instead requiring multiple policy actions to achieve the desired outcomes.

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