Research Proposal: Traditional Agriculture vs Sustainable Agriculture.

Inquiry question: How does sustainable agriculture compare traditional agriculture in terms of environmental destruction, food production and  resource degradation.  

Primary purpose, Explore: I know that traditional agriculture has some negative effects on the environment. I want to know what the ups and downs of each agricultural practice are and see how each of them compare to each other. I want to know how to farm sustainably and know what is bad for the environment in order to provide food for myself without any   negative effects on the environment or my harvest. I am not sure which one has a higher yield for food but I know that sustainable agriculture over time will generate more food than traditional agriculture.

Primary Purpose, Argument: I will be arguing that traditional agriculture is subpar to sustainable agriculture.

I come to this project with the belief that traditional agriculture is not sustainable. It destroys nutrients in soil and can cause water contamination. Over time you will get less and less food and it will not be as healthy or nutritious. I know that sustainable agriculture thinks about the future, and tries to avoid destroying the environment. Sustainable agriculture leans toward not using pesticides and using low flow irrigation systems to avoid run off erosion of the soil. Proponents of sustainable agriculture do not till their land as it destroys the soil causing it to not be able to uptake water as easily and tilling causes an increase in soil erosion. I assume that Sustainable agriculture generates healthier food, that it doesn’t destroy the environment, and that it could produce less food than traditional practices. I assume that sustainable agriculturists do not use pesticides on their land, and that they do nearly everything by hand instead of using machines that can contaminate their crops. I assume that traditional agriculture will eventually be replaced by something more sustainable and I want to see what it could be replaced with. I have the idea that people who eat food grown with sustainable practices will be healthier than those who eat traditionally grown foods. Before I did some research on the differences of sustainable agriculture and traditional agriculture I didn’t know that sustainable agriculture was so destructive on the environment, and water supply. I didn’t know that rototilling was as destructive as it really is and I didn’t know the extent to which the nutrients in soil were degrading. After forming my working knowledge I have the belief that most places should be using sustainable agricultural practices to prevent their harvests from becoming less and less. I believe that if people rototill their soil they need to fertilize it in order to prevent as much nutrient loss as possible, and I believe that people should not be over watering their plants as it leads to fast soil erosion especially when coupled with rototilling. I want to know as much about both kinds of agriculture as I can so that when I am able to I will be able to set up my own sustainable farm area to grow all the food I need in a way that will not destroy the environment and will allow continued food production maybe even at an increased rate if I take care of the environment properly. I now know that if sustainable agriculturists use any pesticides they are natural pesticides and they will not cause as much contamination if they come into contact with the ground water. I also know why it is bad to till soil and believe that it shouldn’t be done. The reason it is bad to till soil is because it mixes up the sand silt and clay in the ground and no longer allows the water to fall through the sand and into the silt and clay where nutrients and water are stored. The fact that the soil is all mixed up causes it to erode quicker and the nutrients are lost even faster. However rototilling soil not only destroys the nutrients it grinds up the fungus that produces glomalin a protein that holds soil together like glue. After reading everything that I read I believe that there is more of a need for sustainable practices now than there ever was before. Eventually there may not be enough good soil due to bad agricultural practices to produce enough food to feed the human races growing population.


5 thoughts on “Research Proposal: Traditional Agriculture vs Sustainable Agriculture.

  1. Policy questions
    1) Resource depletion associated with traditional agriculture. What should and should not be done, What is sustainable and what is not?

    Interpretation questions
    1) What does it mean to not use sustainable agricultural practices? What are the possible consequences of not using a sustainable practice.

    Hypothesis questions
    1) Is it true that sustainable agriculture is better for the environment than traditional practices.
    2) Is it healthier to use sustainable agricultural practices over traditional practices.

    Question of value
    1) Is sustainable agriculture a better practice than traditional agriculture, in what ways and why?

    Relationship questions
    1) Why is traditional agriculture more destructive than sustainable agriculture.
    2) What are the similarities and differences of traditional and sustainable agriculture. What effects does each have on the environment and the resources that they each use.

  2. I really like the question “is it true that sustainable agriculture is better for the environment that traditional practices?” I’m not sure if you’re interested in cash flow, but you can also ask which method costs more. Also which one uses more labor. Environment is an extremely important factor, but countries also have to worry about cost and labor. I love your topic and look forward to reading this full blog post.
    -Paige Hoffmann

  3. I also liked the question that Paige chose as well as your question of value: Why is traditional agriculture more destructive than sustainable resources? What would happen if we went back to living the way we did long ago? I’m excited to read your blog as well!
    -Thanks Tiffany S.

  4. The question about tradition practices and current ones is interesting.

    It also plays in with where you are at in the world. I think some tradition practices might be perfectly fine in one region but horrible in other.

    The question about consequences can also be narrowed to a local standpoint.
    What does the northwest or Washington region farming differ from other regions? what do we lack that other regions have? visversa.

    Nick Wehrmann

  5. One thing I feel should be pointed out is that a difference between the two different systems of agriculture is that one uses organic or “natural” pesticides while the other uses synthetic pesticides. In other words, all farms use pesticides but back from the 50’s to the 80’s when farmers were spraying their crops with the pesticide DDT, the organic pesticides were definitely the way to go. DDT was a dangerous chemical that had adverse health effects the entire way up the food chain from slowing algae photosynthesis to thinning the eggshells of birds that were affected; in humans it causes headaches, nausea, vomiting, confusion and tremors. Since then though, we have developed synthetic pesticides that actually cause far less damage to the environment and animals than the modern organic pesticides. Here is an interesting article from UC Berkeley about pesticides in organic farming. (
    Please don’t feel like I’m picking on you. I find your topic very interesting, especially because I am on the side most people find wrong. I feel though that it is not the science behind modern agriculture that is the problem, but the people who the technology is delivered to afterwards that cause issues (*cough* monsanto *cough*). The main issue I see with them is the want for all the secrecy. The way I see it, if you don’t want people spreading rumors that you’re making frankenfoods then tell people what you’re actually doing! Makes sense to me. Man, it sure is hard to get 200 words on here.

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