Almost one-third of the world’s farms have adopted more environment-friendly practices while continuing to be productive, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Nature Sustainability.

Researchers from Washington State University analyzed farms that used some form of “sustainable intensification,” a term that refers to practices – like organic farming – that use resources such as water or technology to grow crops and reduce environmental impacts at the same time.

The results of the application of these practices can be dramatic: improved productivity, biodiversity, and ecosystem services, as well as fewer costs for farmers. They offer several examples. One is that of 100,000 farmers in Cuba who increased their productivity by 150% while cutting pesticide use by 85%.

They add that developing countries tend to see the largest improvements in productivity, while industrialized countries tend to see “increases in efficiency (lower costs).”

The sustainable practices the authors considered in their analysis were, among others, irrigation water management, conservation agriculture, pasture and forage redesign, and Integrated Pest Management.

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