A look at sustainability and its implications for farming

Last year in this space I wrote that agriculture has the potential to change the world.

This year in our “Issue 52” edition, we focus on what it will take to change the world in a sustainable manner.

These approaches to agriculture — sustainable, regenerative: what they mean and why they matter — are partly driven by the philosophy of taking care of the Earth and partly by consumer demand. On page 3, reporter Ed White explains how the Canola Council of Canada is factoring in “sustainability metrics” to its goal of producing 52 bu. per acre by 2025.

On page 4, Barbara Duckworth speaks to cattle producers J.P. and Marlene Monvoisin of Gravelbourg, Sask., who are certified sustainable beef producers, to see how their practices work for their herd of 450 Angus cows.

And on the following page, Duckworth talks to food experts to get a handle on just how important sustainable agricultural practices are to consumers; though, as Duckworth explains, not everyone is sure just what that means, and not everyone is willing to pay the price.

On page 6, Ron Lyseng takes an interesting look at the volume of inputs required to feed the world’s growing population. It turns out that practices are changing in interesting ways.

Jeremy Simes has a look at whether regenerative agriculture, which some see as a step beyond sustainable, is possible for many farmers. It looks like there are opportunities for incremental steps in that direction. That story can be found on page 10.

Then on page 12, Barb Glen chats with Alberta cattle producers who are using intensive grazing – considered a sustainable ag practice – to see how well it works and what is required to do it well.

On page 32, following the classified section, Brian Cross outlines how Cargill plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in its supply chains by 30 percent per tonne of product by 2030.

Lyseng is back on pages 38-39, with a look at electric tractors, and he offers an analysis on how practical they are for prairie farmers.

On page 40, Cross talks to Jake Leguee, a Fillmore, Sask., area grain farmer who has adopted a list of sustainable production practices that growers will find interesting.

While climate change is the impetus behind the quest for sustainable production, on page 41 Sean Pratt reviews research that shows how Canadian growers can benefit from the situation. I might add, however, that if the prognosticators are correct about the effects of warming temperatures, there will be misery elsewhere.

Readers will find an interesting story on page 47, where contributor Margaret Evans has discovered the existence of a global food sustainability map, which scores countries based on 20 indicators. The researchers who produced the map note that the world may have to deal with “potentially massive trade-offs around issues related to food quality and food security.”

Our entire contingent of reporters contributed to this publication and Creative Director Michelle Houlden handled its design.

Some of the material in these pages is common sense, some may produce a bit of anxiety and some material might be considered controversial.

But at The Western Producer, we try to keep on top of trends to show producers what lies ahead, so you can prepare your operations accordingly.

We hope you’ll find this information useful.

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