Sustainable Gastronomy: Does Agriculture Have a Role to Play?

Discover how the agriculture industry can play a role in sustainable gastronomy & the prevention of climate change

Close up shot of various fruit and vegetables grown in a sustainable way

Sustainable Gastronomy; is it a fancy term for waste-free food? Well, partly – but there’s a little more to it, as it encompasses all areas of food production – from farm to plate.

Sustainable gastronomy involves celebrating seasonal ingredients, preserving wildlife when growing produce, and being aware of all aspects of the food supply chain, to ensure you’re making the most eco-friendly choices within your business model.

In this blog post, we discuss areas in which the agricultural industry can play a greater role in this green movement to combat the devastating effects of climate change, based on the Save and Grow Paradigm by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

What Exactly is the Save and Grow Paradigm?

Back in 2011, the FAO introduced the Save and Grow model, specifically aimed at enhancing productivity and sustainability for smallholder crop production methods.

The concept involves taking an ecosystem approach that focuses on how nature can contribute to the successful growth of crops, without further depleting the natural resource base of the land, hindering any future farming productivity.

The approach takes into account social, economic and environmental challenges to ensure that any “action on the ground is underpinned by the knowledge based on the best available science“, as well as taking into account both community and country suitability. Here are some of the areas in which the Save and Grow paradigm can help to promote sustainable gastronomy:

Monitoring Soil Health

The wasteful use of fertilisers are not only damaging to the environment through air pollution but can also be expensive. Mechanical tillage is one area that poses a considerable threat to the environment due to being such an unsustainable cultivation practice. Tillage leaves the soil susceptible to wind, runoff, and erosion which can decrease crop yields and affect the level of C02 the soil can absorb.

To increase crop productivity, using soil rich in biota and organic matter is key, with the best crop yields being achieved when the nutrients come from a mixture of mineral fertilisers and natural sources, according to the FOA.

irrigation canal running though a hill with grass and trees surrounding the canal

Water Management

The use of water within the agricultural industry is essential for a successful harvest but some irrigation methods can have a serious impact on the environment to ensure crops have enough water to grow in order to prevent soil salinisation and nitrate contamination.

Therefore, improving knowledge around wastewater reuse, flexible water application, deficit irrigation will help to improve the sustainability of water management. Obviously, this is dependent on the location of the land, but farms that focus on improving their rainfed productivity will also help to prevent climate change – which is currently threatening millions of small farms globally.

Young beetroots in intercropping soil cultivation in eco-friendly arable land within the agricultural industry

Pesticides and Plant Protection

Pesticides do keep away the pests and insects which can damage crops with ease. However, their overuse can harm not only the environment but farmworkers and the eventual consumers. Due to the frequent use of pesticides, some insects have now become resistant to them making it much harder to protect crops safely.

There’s also an issue around pesticides impacting biodiversity, as they have been linked to a decline in bees and pollinators, birds, mammals, and other non-targeted crops. Runoff contaminants can also impact the quality of the ground and water, leading to a decrease in earthworms and therefore soil fertility.

Crop losses by insects can often be kept to a minimum on well-managed farms by undertaking crop rotations, intercropping, removing infected host plants, regular weed management and using organic pesticides such as fungicides and bactericides – which also make the food safer for the consumer.

The Future of Sustainable Gastronomy

Although there’s a mainstream focus on creating less food waste, when it comes to food production fundamental changes are needed at policy and institutional level to ensure it’s profitable for farmers so they’re earning a fair price for their crops.

Addressing all aspects of social, economic, and environmental factors surrounding sustainable gastronomy will be vital in driving change and policy across all areas of the supply chain – from farm to plate.

If you’d like to learn more about sustainable gastronomy and the role it can have on the planet, the lives of farmers, and the quality of fresh produce, then please head to https://www.fao.org/home/en/ .

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