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Notes on Sustainable Agriculture

Notes on Sustainable Agriculture:

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  • Sustainability: The perpetual ability within systems; focuses on system integrity and the ability to withstand stresses and shocks.
  • Agricultural sustainability: Mainly about ecological sustainability, evolving from subsistence farming to profit-oriented farming.
  • Technological advancements in agriculture have met demands but led to a decline in resource quality and quantity.
  • Twentieth-century awakening: Realization of the limits of Earth's resources and the need for sustainability in ecosystems and agriculture.
  • Key studies: "The Limits to Growth" (Meadows et al., 1972), works by Lester Brown, Paul Ehrlich, and the International Union for Conservation of Natural Resources highlighting the need for sustainable development.

Historical Perspective:

  • Origin of sustainable agriculture concept: Roman landowner Marcus Terentius Varro, first century BC.
  • Agriculture: From nomadic to settled, and then to industrialized and globalized, with increasing reliance on external resources.
  • Subsistence agriculture: Practiced for 6000 years pre-industrial era with minimal disruption to nature.

Sustainable Development and Sustainable Agriculture:

  • The Brundtland Commission Report emphasized sustainable development, targeting environmental damage and advocating holistic agricultural systems.
  • Sustainable agriculture became central to sustainable development, recognized by FAO, World Bank, and CGIAR.

Components of Sustainable Agriculture:

  • Human, economic, and social development as crucial areas for sustainable development.
  • Focus on food security, health, education, and basic amenities.
  • Recognition of the negative impacts of Green Revolution technologies and the need for sustainable development strategies.
  • Importance of ecological sustainability and economic profitability for agriculture.

Economic Viability:

  • Evolution of agriculture from subsistence to profit-driven, influenced by market demand and socio-economic-political factors.
  • Economic profitability essential for sustainability in agriculture.
  • Varied agricultural policies globally, based on production excess or need.

Ecological Viability:

  • Modern agricultural methods increased yields but negatively impacted soil, environment, and biodiversity.
  • Emphasis on conserving natural resources for sustainable biological productivity.
  • Importance of ecological processes and sustainable management techniques.

Social Acceptability:

  • Social justice and equity as critical components of sustainability.
  • The impact of macro-economic policies and cultural factors on agriculture.
  • Challenges faced by subsistence and commercial farmers in adopting Green Revolution technologies.


  • Trade-offs necessary for pragmatic sustainability.
  • Priority on productivity and ecological soundness over economic and social viability.
  • Resource-based approach to sustainability, acknowledging ecological limits to intensification.

Agriculture in India:

  • Analysis of agriculture since independence: Achievements and challenges.
  • The transition from traditional to Green Revolution technologies.
  • Increase in food production but accompanied by environmental and ecological concerns.

Contextual Nature of Agricultural Sustainability:

  • Sustainable agriculture as a complex, multidimensional concept.
  • Various agricultural systems shaped by physical, biological, socio-economic, and cultural determinants.

Indicators of Sustainability:

  • Challenges in measuring sustainability due to its varied dimensions.
  • Different approaches and frameworks for assessing sustainability at various levels.

Strategies for Realizing Agricultural Sustainability:

  • Two key components: Ecological soundness and socio-economic equity.
  • Strategies across farming, natural resources management, and socio-political contexts.

Crop Production Practices:

  • Diversification and site-specific management for sustainable production.
  • Emphasis on reducing reliance on monocultures and adapting to changing circumstances.


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